Tips for Mastering Holiday Stress
“Winter is coming”. The Starks are all right, eventually. And as we approach this beautiful time of year, we come together in ways that are unique for each of us. For some, celebrating the holidays makes for the best season of all- for others, it can be a stressful, anxiety-inducing period due to the stressors and the expectations that come with it. For people with mental health concerns, this time of year can be highly triggering, exacerbating, and may create setbacks if their needs are not addressed.
Triggers are present constantly throughout the holidays. People suffering with depression, PTSD, anxiety, and other mental health concerns grappling with grief, experiencing complicated family systems, or the pressure of having “the perfect holiday” may find this time overwhelming.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, there are several tactics one might employ to avoid some of the difficult obstacles present during the holiday season.
For those experiencing Seasonal Depression:
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and herbal teas, and don’t forget to hydrate your skin with lotions and lip balms. Hydration nourishes the brain and its physical effects can improve your overall mood.
- Find time to exercise. The holiday season is a great time to ice skate, ski or hike. If you don’t have access to these outdoor activities, any form of exercise will release endorphins, which can lessen the symptoms of depression.
- Spend time with loved ones. This offers an opportunity for social interaction, which can help lessen the feelings of loneliness that may come around this time of year.
- Pamper yourself. Taking a bath, having a warm drink or getting a massage can create a sense of calm and happiness, especially during the stress of the holidays.
- Indulge without over-consuming. Treating yourself can make you happy, but over-indulging in unhealthy food around the holidays can negatively impact symptoms.
For those experiencing grief:
- It’s not all sad. Know that some parts of the holiday will be wonderful, and some parts will be sad. The anticipation of sadness may be stressful, but the holidays provide an opportunity for healing. You can still take joy in the relatives that are present and remember fond memories of holidays past.
- It is okay to feel the way you feel. It is healthy to acknowledge your feelings and work through them, rather than suppressing them.
- Take care of yourself. Find healthy ways to cope, such as exercising. Organizing family walks is a great way to get fresh air and enjoy the company of others. Don’t search for solace in unhealthy foods or alcohol. If alcohol is present, drink responsibly.
- Don’t feel pressured to uphold family traditions. While they might be a comforting way to remember a loved one, sometimes family traditions are too painful to bear. Your family will find new ways to celebrate, and your traditions will adjust with time.
Keep in mind that the loved ones you lost would want you to remember them fondly, to enjoy the holiday season, and to find comfort in having the family come together.
Managing Holiday Expectations
The holiday season only comes once a year, and while it’s understandable to aspire for perfection, it’s important to set realistic, attainable goals. The following are a few key tips for avoiding the stress of perfection.
- Make a budget. While the average American household spent nearly $1,000 on holiday gifts in 2017, it’s important not to go overboard. Do your best to stick to a budget while still leaving a small amount extra for wiggle room; the holidays tend to bring out the generosity in us.
- Come up with a plan. Spread out your errands, so you don’t become overwhelmed with too many tasks at once, and don’t forget to schedule some relaxation time!
- Find the best time to shop. Malls are less crowded on weekdays and weeknights. If you can manage, try to go during the day and park farther away from the stores. Your time in the sunlight walking to or from your car can boost your serotonin levels. Practicing mindful activities while you wait in line can also help you stay calm among the holiday shopping chaos.
- Be kind to yourself. All you can do is your best and your best is good enough. It’s impossible to please everyone, but we are often our own harshest critics.
We at LifeTutors wish you and your family a joyous holiday season. In the event your young adult adult is struggling, please do not hesitate to reach out to us to discuss how we might support your loved one and your family.