For most Americans, the holiday season usually begins around Thanksgiving and continues until New Year’s Day. This time of year is usually accompanied by feelings of joy, excitement, love, and warmth. However, the holiday season can also bring with it stress, anxiety and depression due to all of the commitments, entertaining of relatives (near and far), parties, shopping and cooking that is expected.
Coping with holiday stress and depression is manageable if you plan correctly. Identifying triggers that may contribute to stress and depression during this time is important in helping to prevent an emotional meltdown:
- The holiday’s can exacerbate already strained relationships you may have with relatives. Having to entertain and be in close proximity with these relatives can increase stress and depression symptoms. However, not having loved one’s close by during this time can also add to these feelings.
- The holiday season can also put a big dent in your finances. Many families are already dealing with financial stress due to loss of a job, car or home, and credit card or other debt. The financial costs of additional food, travel, gifts and entertainment can make the holiday season stressful and anxiety provoking.
- Finally, the physical demands of the holiday season can be overwhelming. Cooking, entertaining, and cleaning up can contribute to feelings of lethargy, exhaustion and overall feeling burned out which can make stress and depression worse. Lack of sleep and adequate rest can also makes these symptoms worse.
The Mayo Clinic offers these tips for combating stress and depression during the holiday season:
- Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
- Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
- Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can’t come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videotapes.
- Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression too.
- Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Try these alternatives: Donate to a charity in someone’s name, give homemade gifts or start a family gift exchange.
- Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That’ll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.
- Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. If it’s not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
- Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks. Continue to get plenty of sleep and physical activity.
- Take a breather.Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Take a walk at night and stargaze. Listen to soothing music. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.
- Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.
Enjoy the holidays and don’t let them become something you dread. If you plan correctly and listen to your body, mind and spirit during this time, it can be a time of love, joy and peace of mind.
Be blessed, be well…