During the holiday season everyone experiences stress to some degree due to numerous demands, obligations, and pressures involved in preparing for this time of year. Some individuals may have a more difficult time than others especially if they have existing life stressors such as economic concerns, grief and loss, loneliness, illness, or strained relationships. It is important to recognize that the more stress we endure the more prone we are to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
The good news is that we have control over our stress level by being mindful of out triggers and carefully planning during the holidays. We may not be able to have control over existing problems in our lives, but we can successfully manage our stressors by making healthy choices. Here are some practical strategies that can be used to prevent further distress and make the holidays more enjoyable.
Gift giving- Don’t let the commercialism of Christmas pressure you into overspending and buying gifts that you can’t really afford. Stick to your budget and set limits. There are also great alternatives to monetary gifts such as volunteering your time or making homemade gifts.
Holiday Traditions and Celebrations- Avoid taking sole responsibility for baking cookies, cooking, decorating, wrapping gifts, or party planning. Instead, plan ahead and ask others to help in these tasks so it’s fun and not overwhelming. Also, learn to say no to things that you really don’t want to participate in or have time for in your schedule.
Family Conflict- It’s inevitable for emotions to heighten during holiday events if there is conflict among family members. However, we can prevent further chaos if we accept these circumstances and set aside differences for the sake of the rest of the family during holiday events.
And most importantly….
Self-Care- Remember to take good care of your physical health by making sure you get plenty of sleep, exercise, avoid overeating, and limit alcohol. If you have no family and feel depressed and lonely, make sure to avoid isolation and seek support from others in your community.
Wendy Steiger, LLMSW
Target CSM/Community Clinician