The holidays are a time of joy and celebration—but for many, it also comes with a fair amount of stress and anxiety. In fact, over 40% of people report feeling some amount of stress during this season. On top of this, 64% of people with mental illnesses state that this time of year exacerbates their struggles.
As we prepare for the holidays, we may feel more stressed than usual about what to buy for our loved ones, how much money we have left in our budgets after buying gifts, or even who we’ll end up spending the holiday with. On top of that, navigating all the various events, parties, and obligations can feel like it’s too much at times. If you are one of the many people that find themselves feeling overwhelmed by holiday stress this year, here are seven strategies that can help you stay calm and enjoy your time with family and friends.
Get rest whenever you can.
The first strategy to deal with stress during the holidays is to get rest whenever you can. This time of year is incredibly busy in all aspects. For those that work, Q4 is a jam-packed time in which many companies or employers are demanding more from their employees than ever. In addition to this, most people are navigating holiday plans with family and friends, gift shopping, and planning their own gatherings.
Getting an adequate amount of rest, whether it’s sleep or simply a period of peace, is crucial during this season. Consider creating downtime in your days for relaxing activities such as reading a book or exercising rather than doing anything else productive. This will help keep your mind from overworking itself even further than it already has been and will reduce some of the cortisol in your body.
Rest is also helpful for battling the cold and flu bugs that run rampant during this season. When you combine this with countless gatherings and a decreased immune system due to stress, your chances of catching something are drastically increased.
Stay away from negative people.
You know the type: The person who is always complaining about their job, their life, or their family. These folks can be difficult to avoid during the holiday season due to an increase in social gatherings where such people are likely to congregate. When you’re already feeling stressed out due to your own personal circumstances, there’s no need to allow yourself to become sucked into another person’s negative energy vortex as well.
Especially for those that take on other people’s emotions, good or bad, this can be exceptionally draining to be around. Avoidance isn’t necessarily a solution on its own — but it may help reduce some of the extra stress that comes with being around someone who tends toward pessimism and negativity most of the time.
Be open about how you feel.
For those that struggle with stress or mental illness, it is more vital than ever to be open about your mental state during this time of year. Succumbing to the pressure or anxiety that can be created by this season is an easy trap to fall into, but leaning on those around you can be an impactful way to help.
If you have a support system with your family or friends, be sure to communicate how you feel whenever necessary. Even a quick conversation or check-in can be beneficial when you are feeling out of sorts. In regard to feelings, it is also helpful to make gratitude a focus during this season. Research shows that those who practice gratitude regularly are better equipped to battle some of the symptoms that come from stress or mental illness.
Treat your body well.
One of the less productive behaviors many people engage in during this time of year is treating themselves to a variety of unhealthy foods and beverages. Alcohol consumption increases dramatically during the holidays, as well as indulgence in fatty, sugary foods. Although it is tempting to indulge yourself from time to time, making this a habit for a month or two can be detrimental to both your mental and physical health.
Eating processed foods can negatively impact our gut health, which is directly linked to our mental health. If you are already feeling stressed, consuming large amounts of unhealthy foods is likely to exacerbate the issue. A helpful method to combat this is to strive for balance. Adding in healthy, fiber-rich foods whenever possible can help negate some of the damage done by processed food. Additionally, supplementing the pre and probiotics can help keep your gut health on track.
Alcohol-related fatalities increase during the Christmas season, according to a study done by Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience. Many psychologists refer to this as the “Christmas Effect.” One potential contributor to this is the self-medicating that takes place to cope with stress or anxiety. Being aware of this phenomenon and limiting alcohol consumption is beneficial for both your stress levels and your physical well-being.
Set goals for your holiday spending and stick to them.
One of the most effective ways to deal with holiday stress is to set goals for your spending. To begin with, set a firm budget. Many people find it helpful to set a limit on how much they plan on spending during the holidays, and this can help alleviate some of the stress that comes with gift shopping.
If you are planning to host, set a budget for your food and beverage offerings as well. Especially for those with larger families, hosting can be incredibly expensive. The holidays are all about spending time with those you love, but it should not come at a cost that is out of your budget.
For those on an exceptionally tight budget, consider giving time instead of gifts. Many people cherish their ability to spend quality time with those they love and would prefer this over a physical item. Although time is free, it is priceless for many.
Prioritize your own well-being.
When you are feeling stretched too thin, one of the best ways to lower stress levels is by prioritizing self-care acts. This can be as simple as taking a bath in the evening or going for a long hike. Whatever typically makes you feel like the best version of yourself is what you should seek out.
It is also important to retain boundaries during this time of the year, as getting together with family members can cause increased stress for many. If you find yourself drained after an interaction or gathering, give yourself the time to recover before heading off to the next event.
In addition to this, if you are experiencing decreased mental health due to attending too many parties or get-togethers, get comfortable with saying no to attending. Even if you risk upsetting others in the process, it is vital to put yourself first when it comes to your overall well-being.
Relax and remember that there is no such thing as a perfect holiday season.
Strategy seven is to simply relax and remember that this time of year is meant to be enjoyed. Many people allow themselves to get wrapped up in the proceedings and forget to enjoy this time of year.
Putting too much pressure on yourself to either buy the perfect gifts or provide the perfect holiday meal is inevitably going to cause unnecessary stress. Although it can be difficult to let go of some of this desire to perfect every detail, it is crucial for your mental and physical well-being.
The holidays are a challenging time for many, but understanding that this is a common experience and practicing the above strategies can make a significant impact on your stress levels. Make sure to take the necessary time to take care of yourself and enjoy as much of this wonderful season as possible.
New Dimensions Can Help!
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms or problems, New Dimensions can help. Our team of experienced therapists and psychiatrists can help you overcome these challenges and help you develop the skills you need to thrive. To schedule a complementary assessment or to find out more about our programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.
Our affiliate, MHThrive, provides Individual Therapy, Couples and Marriage Counseling, and Family Therapy at our locations in Katy, The Woodlands, and the Clear Lake area of Houston, Texas. We also provide telehealth therapy for anyone who resides within the State of Texas. To schedule an appointment with one of the MHThrive therapists, contact us at 713-477-0333 or visit www.mhthrive.com to learn more.
- Lushniak BD. Surgeon general’s perspectives. Public Health Rep. 2013 Nov-Dec;128(6):434-5. doi: 10.1177/003335491312800602. PMID: 24179254; PMCID: PMC3804086.
- Sansone RA, Sansone LA. The christmas effect on psychopathology. Innov Clin Neurosci. 2011 Dec;8(12):10-3. PMID: 22247812; PMCID: PMC3257984.