It’s supposed to be the “most wonderful time of the year,” but the holiday stress can feel never-ending. Just when you are done cramming the Thanksgiving leftovers into every piece of Tupperware you own, the clock strikes midnight, and it’s time to get ready for Christmas!
The holiday season can be a time of joy and light. But between the stress of shopping, cooking, and traveling, the shorter daylight hours, and the ever-looming threat of Covid-19 (time to learn to pronounce “omicron”), it can also be a very stressful time of year.
Holiday Stress Statistics
Almost 80% of American adults say they get stressed around the holidays. Common seasonal stressors include:
- financial stress
- gift shopping
- family events
- over-stuffed schedules
In the hustle and bustle of holiday preparations, it can be easy to lose sight of the positive aspects of the holiday season. Whatever your source of stress, here are some of my top tips to de-stress and enjoy the holidays.
5 Tips for Holiday Stress Management
Apart from the usual healthy habits (eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep), here are some holiday-specific tips for maintaining your mental wellbeing.
1) Acknowledge your feelings
It’s completely normal to feel stressed during the holidays; don’t make things worse for yourself by feeling guilty. Take a few deep breaths and cut yourself some slack – pushing through the stress will only lead to burnout.
The holidays can also be a sad time for some people. Maybe you’ve lost someone close to you, or the global pandemic is keeping you from seeing loved ones. Take time to grieve, cry, or seek out a mental health professional. You can’t make yourself happy just because it’s the holidays.
2) Learn mindfulness practices
It’s a concept so ubiquitous that it’s almost lost its meaning. But mindfulness, says social psychologist Ellen Langer, is more than just a yoga class and watching the sunrise.
“Mindfulness is often described as the ability to be in the moment,” says Langer. She says that daily meditation can help you to become more mindful in your daily life, but meditation isn’t the only way.
Practicing mindfulness can improve your personal relationships, invigorate your work in new ways, and benefit your mental health. You might be surprised at how much evidence there is to support mindfulness as part of a healthy lifestyle. Even the tech industry has gotten on board, creating a number of apps that can help you get started.
3) Set a budget for stress-free holiday shopping
Holiday shopping stress is real. Between the financial strain, finding the “perfect” gift, and going to shops, holiday shopping can really increase stress levels. Those shiny “sales” signs and credit card commercials may convince you to spend more than you can afford.
While holiday stress may go away after New Year’s Day, a credit card balance you can’t pay off won’t. And with many families already experiencing pandemic-induced financial stress, making (and sticking to) a budget is more important than ever.
4) Identify your holiday stressors and prioritize
What part of the holidays stresses you out the most? Is it the shopping? The family gatherings? Hosting holiday parties? The 24-hour nonstop Christmas music? Figure out what it is, and make a plan to minimize its impact.
Understand that there’s no such thing as a “perfect holiday.” If the thought of baking fresh cookies is stressing you out, buy them at the store. If writing Christmas letters is overwhelming, send generic cards. With the Covid-19 vaccine, we can see family members again this year; if some of your family make your blood pressure rise, limit time spent together when possible.
Remember to add your own well-being to your list of priorities.
5) Pay attention to your mental health
Sometimes the holiday blues are more severe than just holiday stress. If you find yourself experiencing some of the following symptoms, you might be part of the 5% of Americans who experience seasonal affective disorder:
- Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Having low energy
- Oversleeping, insomnia, or trouble staying asleep
- Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight, especially an increased craving for carbs
- Feeling sluggish or agitated
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
- Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide
If you’re experiencing these symptoms, talk to a doctor. If you’ve been diagnosed with a depressive disorder, the decreased sunlight and increased stress can exacerbate your existing condition, so make sure to keep your healthcare team informed of any seasonal mood changes.
Remember, it’s the “hap-happiest season of all.” So, take a deep breath, practice some self-care, and remember to enjoy it!
About Dr. Thaïs Aliabadi
As one of the nation’s leading OB/GYNs, Dr. Thaïs Aliabadi offers the very best in gynecological and obstetric care. Together with her warm professional team, Dr. Aliabadi supports women through all phases of life. She fosters a special one-on-one relationship between patient and doctor.
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