How to Manage Stress & Mental Health During the Holidays
The holiday season can be a stressful and overwhelming time of year.
For many people, the holidays can feel like an unwanted commitment filled with tension instead of joy and happiness.
Maybe it’s worrying about finding the perfect gift for everyone, how you’re going to afford all of the presents, dealing with family members you don’t get along with or managing the changes in routine while trying to plan everything.
All of these demands may quickly lead to a decline in one’s mental health and may trigger harmful behaviors such as drug use, drinking alcohol to cope with stress, and sometimes an increase in mental health issues such as depression or anxiety.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the holidays, here are some tips to help manage your mental health and holiday stress levels.
#1 Plan Ahead
Trying to rush everything in at the last minute is a recipe for disaster.
Instead, have a plan in place for when you are going to accomplish certain tasks such as shopping, visiting friends, and baking. Take it a step further and plan out your shopping list and the food you are planning to serve.
Not only will planning give you peace of mind, but it is also a good exercise to keep your mind organized and calm.
By planning ahead and taking care of one task at a time, you will feel less holiday stress and eliminate the risk of an overwhelming schedule.
#2 Be Realistic
The holidays don’t have to be just exactly perfect. Don’t stress yourself out by trying to create the perfect holiday season. Instead, be realistic and open-minded.
Traditions and rituals may change, families can grow or move farther away, and there might not be enough time to set up all the decorations, make it to every party, or prepare all the food.
Keep it simple and reasonable. The holidays are going to be perfect just as they are, and more importantly, filled with joy.
#3 Stay Active
Exercise is a great way to deal with holiday stress, anxiety, and depression.
You don’t have to join a gym or set aside 1-2 hours every day for a workout. Simply taking a walk, performing stretches, or doing a quick 20 minute home workout routine can help improve your mood and energy.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), exercise and physical activity produce endorphins, which act as natural painkillers and reduce stress levels. This is especially important for mental health during the holidays, where stress is at an all-time high.
#4 Don’t Be Afraid to Say No
Saying no to a friend or family member is hard, but is sometimes necessary for the sake of your mental health.
It may be the holidays and you want to please everyone, but you also need to think about your mental health and holiday stress levels. If you feel like there is way too much on your plate and you need to make room in your schedule, then let your friends or family members know.
Be honest and tell your loved ones if you are stressed during the busy holiday season. This can even be an opportunity to take a moment to connect with them. They will probably understand your experience and may even offer to help out.
#5 Set Aside Differences
The holidays are a time to come together as a family and share in joy, not a time to argue or express disappointment in one other.
Set aside any differences in lifestyle, opinions, or behaviors and accept everyone for who they are. There is a time and place to discuss grievances, but the holidays are not the time. Enjoy each other’s company and talk about topics that bring happiness.
And remember, if someone in your family starts acting out, try to be understanding and compassionate. They may also be dealing with stress and mental health issues that come with the holidays and they will appreciate your support when experiencing a stressful moment.
#6 Acknowledge Your Feelings
Just because it’s the holidays, doesn’t mean you have to be happy all the time.
For example, if you can’t be with a loved one or someone you know has recently passed away, it’s okay to express and acknowledge your feelings.
Trying to force yourself to be happy during the holidays will only make your mental health and stress levels worse. According to Insider, when we bottle up our emotions they don’t go away and tend to come back fiercer than before.
Don’t be ashamed of your feelings, it’s completely normal to feel sad and cry because a loved one can’t be with you. It is also good for your mental health and you will feel much better after expressing yourself.
#7 Don’t Worry About the Small Stuff
The items and tasks on your agenda can be overwhelming and quickly add up.
Don’t let small things like forgetting to send a holiday card stress you out. The bigger picture of the holidays is more important, like spending time with friends and family.
Also, don’t feel obligated to complete everything on your list. If you forget something small or don’t have time, don’t sweat it. Life will go on, what’s important is that you take care of your mental health during the holidays and enjoy yourself.
Seek Professional Help If Needed
Don’t let the holidays be something you come to dread every year. Instead, implement these tips into your life to help with mental health and reduce stress.
Identify holiday triggers right when they happen so you can better address them then before they lead to a bigger issue.
If you find yourself struggling during the holiday season with depression, anxiety, or drug use, don’t be afraid to seek professional help.
We are here to help you find peace and joy not only during the holidays but throughout your entire life.