Tips to Reduce Stress Over the Holiday Season

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By UB’s Sari Ticker, PsyD 

The holidays are portrayed in commercials, stores, and movies as a happy, fun, and relaxing time.  Cozying up by a warm fire with a hot chocolate while playing a game of scrabble with the family always sounds like a great idea, right?

The reality is, it is common for stress, anxiety, and depressed feelings to hit as we approach the holidays.  It can be helpful to address these feeling whether this comes from society’s expectation that we are “supposed to” feel a certain way, engage in certain activities, or challenges that arise when our normal routine changes.  Listed below are some tips that may be helpful to use when you feel overwhelmed.

1. Budget: It can feel overwhelming to buy gifts for your family, friends, co-workers, etc. It doesn’t take long before you go above and beyond what you can afford.  It can be helpful to plan ahead and budget what you can spend this season without causing stress about paying necessary bills.  Ideas include making homemade gifts like candles, stationary, or creating art.  Some families will also offer to a gift exchange to ease in the buying of multiple gifts.  It can be important to be intentional when buying gifts.

2. Missing Family Members: Holiday time can easily tap into our grief, particularly thinking about those family members who are not present for the holiday traditions.  It is common to think about memories of loved ones, while continuing to grieve the loss of making future holiday memories together.  Acknowledge and label these reactions, giving yourself permission to be impacted by grief during the holiday season. It is NORMAL. It can be helpful to talk about your reactions with others who are most likely also grieving so that you can connect over a shared experience.

3. Set Aside Differences: Spending a lot of time with family members in close quarters can be stressful.  Everyone has different personalities and differences, which can result in conflict and arguments.  It can be helpful to agree to disagree, and pick the battles in which you want to engage.  Think about what you want to achieve through your holiday season- relaxation, strengthening bonds, finding purpose, creating meaning? Keep these in focus when you feel yourself getting upset/angry over a comment at the table.  Some families will bring questions to address at the table like addressing goals for the future, while reflecting on personal growth in the past year.

4. Take Time For Yourself: The holidays really encourage us to be around those we love.  As much as this is important to be surrounded by those who love us most, it is equally important to take some time alone to clear your head.  Many people feel that taking time for yourself means going to a yoga class or getting a professional massage. As wonderful as these examples are, taking 15 minutes alone can be extremely helpful whether it is to focus on breathing, listen to music, journal, or go for a walk. Try to do something for you at least once a day.

5. Keep your Healthy Habits: It is common to treat and indulge over the holidays whether it be with treats, staying up late, or spending money.  It can be helpful to try and balance your indulgence with healthy habits that help you during the rest of the year.  Try to eat a healthy snack before a party as to not overdo it at a party with desserts and treats.  Incorporate some physical activity everyday.  Encourage yourself to sleep when you feel tired to get as much sleep and rest as you can.

6. Seek Professional Help: Despite your best efforts to utilize the tools and ideas listed above, in addition to other tools that work for you, it may be the case that you still feel anxious, sad, low energy, or having problems with sleep.  This may be an opportunity to check in with your medical doctor and a mental health professional.  Urban Balance works with clients to not only provide concrete and helpful tools to manage uncomfortable feelings during the holidays, but also provides a space to understand ourselves through self-growth and self-discovery.  Our therapists use a variety of evidence-based interventions to address these common experiences.  Get connected with our therapists by calling 888-726-7170.