The holiday season is a joyous time of year, however, it can also be overwhelming and stressful. In fact, 3 in 5 Americans feel their mental health is negatively impacted by the holidays; a trend that’s increasing year-over-year. The American Psychological Association found that more people in the United States find their stress increases rather than decreases during the holiday season for a variety of reasons, including:
- Pressure on their time management and feeling a “lack of time”
- Financial stress and the pressure to expensive buy gifts
- Buying the “right” gifts
- Feeling pressure to travel and the expenses of travel
- Family drama/in-laws
- The expectation of hosting and cooking
A 2021 study even found that 56% of Americans would rather have the holidays canceled than deal with the stress of the season. Luckily, there are healthy ways to manage holiday stress and help you fully enjoy this time of year!
Tips for Managing Stress
- Create a budget: To help prevent stress over money, plan ahead, review your finances, and come up with a realistic budget for gifts. You can also talk to friends and family members about a gift price limit to prevent the pressure of buying an expensive gift, or get creative and give something meaningful and handmade.
- Get plenty of exercise: Exercising is a great stress reliever and it will help prepare you to handle any daily stressors more effectively. You can incorporate exercise into your holiday festivities by inviting the whole family to get active! Go ice skating, walk through holiday markets or light displays, go skiing or snowboarding, or even find some winter hiking trails.
- Keep it simple: The main purpose of the holidays is to enjoy time with friends and family. You do not have to make everything over the top or perfect, and you also don’t need to put all the responsibilities on yourself. Split up the chores, meals, and even gift wrapping among family members to allow yourself to have more time to relax and actually enjoy yourself.
- Set aside “me time:” This is not only the best way to truly relax, but it is also necessary for your mental health. Go to the gym, walk the dog, take a run around the neighborhood, take a bath, or turn in early to read a few chapters in your book, whatever helps you decompress and clear your mind.
- Put differences aside: Getting a large group of family members together can be a lot fun, but there will likely be clashing personalities. While it is easier said than done, aim to “agree to disagree” with certain family members. Avoid any hot topics if you know they cause you stress or lead to arguments, and instead focus on your time together. If it helps, plan activities such as movie night, stocking decorating, cookie baking, or checking out local events!
- Learn to say “no:” Saying yes to every event or gathering can wear you out both mentally and physically. Take the time to evaluate which events are truly important to you and say yes to only those. This will not only lower your stress levels, but it will allow you to be more present and enjoy the moment. Putting your mental health first is not selfish and you do not need to feel guilty for setting boundaries.
- Focus on nutrition: Dr. Gabriela Cora, a board-certified psychiatrist states that what you eat truly does affect your mental health. While it is perfectly okay to enjoy your favorite holiday treats in moderation, sticking to a mostly healthy and nutritious diet over the holiday season sets yourself up for fewer mood fluctuations and less stress.
- Get enough sleep: Sleep deprivation drastically increases any feelings of being stressed or overwhelmed. You need 7-8 hours of sleep every night in order for your body and mind to rejuvenate, this is especially true during the holiday season. If possible, stick to your normal sleep routine as much as possible for even better results.