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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Stone, LMHC

14 Tips for Coping with Holiday Stress

The holidays are often seen as joyous or relaxing time(s) of the year; however, that is not necessarily everyone’s reality. The holidays can highlight family dysfunction, loneliness, financial concerns, losses of loved ones, anxiety related to travel, and more. Furthermore, the holidays can heighten stress which can exacerbate other mental health conditions.

Taking care of yourself is one of the best and most important gifts you can give yourself and those around you, particularly around the holidays.

Coping for the Holidays

  • Goals and Expectations - If you set goals or expectations for the holidays, make sure they are realistic. Try not to set yourself up for undue stress or failure.

  • Plan Ahead – Schedule your shopping trips or days, food prep or baking, etc. This will help you avoid last-minute trips to the store or rushing to complete tasks, etc. Ask for help where appropriate.

  • Finances – Create a realistic budget and stick to it. Spend only what you can afford. You can get creative with gift-giving, such as making handmade gifts, donating to a charity in someone’s name, or starting a gift exchange. Seek out free activities where appropriate. Be sure to account for the entire holiday season so you can make enjoyable things last through the entire season, not just a single day.

  • Consumption – Moderate your eating and drinking, as these are common ways we may try to cope with or escape stressful feelings.

  • Travel – Allow extra time when travelling to accommodate the unexpected and allow yourself time to rest or relax.

  • Get Connected – Try to spend time with those whom bring you joy and/or are supportive. If you do not have people to connect with, consider pursuing connection through a local club, group, or community center to see if they are offering activities which may be of interest to you.

  • Be Present – Try to stay in the here-and-now, versus dwelling too much in the past or future. Consider what is important and good in your life at the moment.

  • Say No – Do your best to set realistic limits or boundaries and say “no” when you feel too much is being asked of you. If you say “yes” even though you do not want to do something, this can lead to undue stress and resentment toward others. It’s okay to say no!

  • Keep It Up – Take any prescription medications as prescribed. If you regularly engage in self-care, don’t forget that it’s equally important, if not more important, to continue your regular self-care routine throughout the holidays (as best as possible).

  • Take a Break – Everyone can benefit from a little time alone. Make time for yourself, even if that means playing on your phone in the bathroom.

  • Lean In – A range of emotions is part of the human experience. Allow yourself to lean in, recognize your feelings, and allow them to happen when you’re ready to hold space for them.

  • Give Back – In most cases, we can have a sense of positivity or rejuvenation when giving back. Consider volunteering your time or giving in other ways if that is replenishing for you.

  • Keep Perspective – Remember the holiday season is temporary and that, typically, stress relief will occur once the holidays pass.

  • Seek Professional Help – If you find it is difficult to manage your emotions or if you’re finding your emotions are worsening, you’re feeling physical symptoms or change in appetite, experiencing sleep difficulties or a loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities, or are experiencing inappropriate guilt, hopelessness, helplessness, or thoughts of death/suicide, talk to a doctor or mental health professional ASAP. If you’re experiencing a life-threatening emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

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