5 Helpful Ways to Cope with Holiday Stress

A woman sitting at a desk while holding her head up with her hands.

The holiday season is a time of joy and celebration. But for those dealing with complicated family dynamics, grief, anxiety, depression, or other personal challenges, the holidays may feel a little less merry and bright.

Holiday shopping. Meal planning. Decorating. Making time to spend with every side of the family. Christmas parties at work. The high expectations around this time of year are overwhelming for most people. If you have any type of undiagnosed or untreated mental illness, the chaos may further exacerbate your symptoms.

No matter your personal circumstances, it’s easy to lose sight of your well-being during this busy time of year. Here are some tips to prioritize self-care throughout the holiday season.

How to Cope with Holiday Stress

1. Acknowledge Your Emotions

The holidays can stir up a wide range of emotions – from joy to sadness, anger to grief. Suppressing your emotions can lead to even greater emotional distress. Acknowledge your emotions and allow yourself to express them in whatever way is most helpful for you. This can be through exercise, writing, talking with a friend, or chatting with your mental health provider.

A person holding a gift behind their back.

2. Maintain Your Expectations

Holiday traditions come with many expectations that can be overwhelming and stressful. Trying to create a “perfect” gathering or finding the “right” gift for someone may set you up for disappointment. Reflect on your expectations and set realistic goals for yourself. Keep things simple. If you’re hosting a holiday gathering, collaborate with your spouse or other family members to divide the responsibilities, like gift wrapping, shopping, cooking, and dishes. This can help ease the mental burden that comes with this time of year.

3. Create New Traditions

Implementing new traditions into your holiday celebrations can be healing and cathartic. Think about what activities you already enjoy and give them a holiday twist. Cook a new recipe. Host a holiday movie marathon. Play a new game. Do a new gift-giving theme like “Secondhand Gifts” or “Experiences”. Going outside of the “norm” can help remove the pressure of previous traditions and allow you to live in the moment.

People cross country skiing.

4. Take Care of Yourself

We know it’s challenging, but try to make some time for yourself this holiday season. This could include practicing meditation, yoga, journaling, or taking an extra-long bath a few times a week. It could also mean saying “no” to events or social activities that would further add to your stress. Keep up with your daily routines, such as eating healthy meals, getting adequate sleep, and staying hydrated. Although it may seem small, attending to these basic needs can significantly uplift your well-being.

5. Focus on What Matters

Instead of dwelling on the stressful side of the holidays, try to focus on what truly matters to you. Studies have shown that practicing gratitude reduces stress, anxiety, and depression. Make a list of what you’re thankful for, and acknowledge all of the positive things in your life. That’s what this time of year is really about.

The holidays can be a challenging time, but implementing these self-care tips can empower you to make this time of year more manageable and enjoyable. Our team at Rural Psychiatry Associates wishes you the happiest of holidays, and we’re always here to help if you need it!

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