How to manage stress around the holidays
The holidays can be a magical time for family and friends to gather and enjoy each other’s company. However, this may also lead to significant amounts of holiday and seasonal stress.
What does holiday stress normally look like?
Holiday stress can affect anyone, even children. It typically manifests itself physically in similar ways to regular stress. But holiday stress is unique because of the backdrop of the holidays. Anxiety and depression often worsen during the holidays, even if you’re enjoying time with cherished loved ones.
The holidays carry a lot of expectations. They’re a time of packed social calendars, parties, traditions, and scheduling concerns. They can often bring financial stress as people book travel and try to fit festivities into their budget, and the holidays often happen during the middle of peak season for seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It’s no wonder lots of people experience increased anxiety and depression around this time.
For some people, being around family can exacerbate this. It can also be a particularly hard time of year if you’ve lost loved ones or are dealing with other heightened stressors.
Common symptoms of stress:
- Body aches
- Feeling tired or run-down
How to manage holiday stress
Before the holidays:
Set reasonable expectations for yourself
Don’t put pressure on yourself to create the perfect holiday. Focus on what makes the holidays special for you and your family. You don’t have to do it all.
Set realistic expectations for your family members
Don’t expect your family to change or behave differently just because it’s the holidays. Don’t put pressure on your children to be on your best behavior, and don’t expect your in-laws to suddenly change overnight.
If you often have a hard time being around your relatives, prepare by setting limits on the time you spend with them. Carefully choose what activities you do with them.
Share the load
You don’t have to do everything yourself. Get other family members involved in holiday tasks like decorating, cooking, baking, and shopping. This increases feelings of togetherness and creates great memories while taking the burden off of yourself.
During the holidays:
Check-in with yourself
We often feel overwhelmed or run down without even realizing it. If you notice this happening, spend a little time by yourself to recharge. Meditate or do some relaxing deep breathing, or go for a quick walk to get some fresh air and clear your mind.
Stick to your regular sleep, meal, and exercise schedule
This gives your body some normalcy, even if you’re traveling and taking part in a lot of festivities. Your body still needs care and rest during the holidays.
Limit alcohol, drug, and tobacco consumption
It’s easy to over-indulge during the holidays. Be aware of the substances you’re putting in your body, how much, how often, and how they’re making you feel.
Lots of people drink more alcohol than usual during the holidays. But alcohol can run you ragged, especially if you’re already tired and are straying from your normal schedule. It can also worsen symptoms of depression. Indulge in moderation.
Get support if you need it
The holidays can sometimes trigger anxiety and depression. If you catch your mental health beginning to suffer, talk to a friend, trusted family member, or therapist to help you weather the storm.
The holidays are a wonderful time – even more so if we find ways to manage our holiday stress.