Coping with Holiday Anxiety and Stress
By Vanessa Gonzalez
The holidays are meant to be spent with the ones you love sharing memories filled with joy, laughter, and peace. However, not everyone shares the same sentiment. The holiday season can also bring some unwanted guests – such as stress and anxiety. According to the American Psychological Association, 38% of people said their stress increased during the holidays rather than decreased and is disproportionally felt by women.
Stress and anxiety during the holidays are typically associated with:
- Lack of time
- Lack of money
- Pressure of gifts
For those facing mental health issues, this can be a lonely and stressful time and worsen symptoms. In addition, this stress can lead to harmful coping mechanisms and behavior. For example, while food and drinks are a huge part of the celebration, it’s also likely to be used in an excessive amount to cope with stress. So, the question remains. How do we prepare ourselves and healthily manage our stress?
How to Prepare for Holiday Stress
While we can feel pulled left and right by the season’s demands, it’s essential to understand our own stressors. Simply planning can help us realize how much control we do have. Understanding our stresses and worries can help us better prepare to cope and find new ways to enjoy the season. Planning ahead can make a huge difference.
1. Set a schedule & plan ahead
Planning a schedule and prioritizing your holiday plans can help you complete things step by step and minimize excess stress and worry. First, create a concrete list of plans and prioritize them from top to bottom, from the most urgent that need your attention today to the upcoming events later in the season. From there, you can focus on each event as they come. For example, if you are preparing Christmas dinner, create a list of the food that needs to be prepared, who is preparing them, and a grocery list to make the recipes. Seeing things in black and white can show you how realistic your goals are.
2. Get enough rest
Lack of sleep can affect our mood and irritability and our prefrontal cortex, impacting our executive functioning, such as decision-making. As recommended by the CDC, sleeping at least 7 hours a day can keep you prepared for your schedule.
3. Create a budget
Creating and, most importantly, sticking by your budget can help with realistic expectations about what you can afford and minimize financial issues rolling into the new year.
4. Get some fresh air
Take some time to yourself and get some fresh air. Whether it’s going out with some friends or taking a pleasant stroll with your dog, spending some time outdoors away from the hustle and bustle can help clear your mind and give you a well-deserved break.
5. Enjoy holiday treats in moderation
Life s too short to deprive yourself of what you enjoy – primarily when this season is meant for exactly that. Don’t restrict your holiday treats or label them as good or bad—practice mindful eating. Listen to your body and your cravings, and savor your food.
6. Let go of your expectations and enjoy your time
The whole point of planning and budgeting is to ensure that you know your own limitations. It may be challenging to set limits on your expectations on how the holidays “should go.” Give yourself grace and remember to be present. These events are planned so loved ones can be together and enjoy themselves – that includes you.
This season is a time to be spent with others and a season of giving. If you know the holidays will be stressful, be sure to schedule time for you too. Take time to learn more about your stressors, triggers, and what relaxes you. Give yourself time to reflect and relax, and you can find peace this season.
Despite your best efforts, you may still find stress overshadowing your peace. If these feelings seem too overwhelming or persist, reach out to your doctor or mental health professional.