The holidays can bring traditions, family get togethers and joy, but they can also bring extra stress. In fact, 38% of us find our stress increases and 64% of people who suffer from mental illness find their condition worsens around the holidays.*
Holiday stress can stem from a number of factors, from financial stress to the sheer pressure that this season brings to be “jolly” even when you may not feel up to it. Losses may feel more profound at the holidays and feelings of loneliness can increase.
The best way to reduce holiday stress and avoid hitting rock bottom this season, is to get ahead of that stress and set yourself up for holidays you might actually enjoy. Here’s some tips to get you started:
- Pause and reflect honestly on how you’re feeling about the holidays. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s good to explore what’s contributing to that overwhelm so you can gain some perspective on what’s really important and cut out the rest.
- Don’t apologize for not being jolly. It’s okay to not be okay. If you’re grieving a recent loss or aren’t able to be with loved ones, acknowledge those feelings and allow yourself the space to feel and express those feelings.
- Set your own standards. Social pressures can increase at the holidays – from the pressure to spend money on gifts, to the pressure to decorate flawlessly, or make the perfect meal, or attend every social gathering. Be honest with yourself and others about what you have the capacity to take on without sacrificing your mental health.
- Reach out to others. Sharing your feelings with friends or family can not only make you feel better, but can give you an ally in thinking about how you can shed the social pressures and focus on the things that bring you the most comfort and joy.
- Focus on healthy habits. With an excess of food and sweets, not to mention all the shopping, parties and events that happen over the holidays, it’s easy to slip into not-so-healthy habits. As tempting as it may be to eat those cookies for breakfast, or to sacrifice your sleep for another get together, try to prioritize the habits that keep you feeling good. It can help to set a weekly intention to keep your healthy habits top of mind.
- Set aside time for yourself. Being with friends and family can boost your mood and make the holidays worth celebrating, but overextending yourself can lead to burnout and even resentment at those you’re spending time with. Make sure you don’t lose focus on your own needs by scheduling some down time.
- Practice gratitude. Reflecting on what and who makes you grateful can help you stay focused on the things that are most important during the holiday season, so it’s easier to cut out the noise and be more present for your holidays.