10 Tips for Managing Holiday Stress

Dog with Reindeer Antlers Looking Stressed

Does the thought of Christmas parties, large family gatherings, holiday shopping, baking, cleaning and decorating leave you feeling stressed and overwhelmed?

 Is it hard to imagine being able to enjoy the holidays, because of what you’re going through? 

Maybe you suffered the loss of a family member this last year and you can’t imagine the holidays without them. 

Maybe the debates over politics and COVID-19 make you want to avoid social gatherings altogether.

It’s easy to let family pressure and feelings of obligation push us to neglect our own needs over the desires of others.  As the holidays approach, it’s important to know how to manage stress and take care of our mental health.

 So how can we look forward to the holidays and enjoy this special time of year? 

Strategies for Managing Stress and Prioritizing Your Mental Health

I am going to share some practical tips for managing the holiday stress and making your mental health a priority.

1. Simplify

Sometimes less is more. By choosing to limit some of the non-essentials, you allow yourself time to focus on more important things. Here are some examples of how to simplify:

  • Limit  the holiday decorating, rather than going all out.
  • Bake two kinds of Christmas goodies, instead of six (or purchase them from your local bakery).
  • Make your holiday meals potluck so everyone is sharing the load.
  • Don’t worry about your house being spotless. No one is looking to see if you have dust bunnies under the dresser.

2. Learn to say “No”

During the holiday season, we can be pulled in a million different directions. There are parties, volunteer opportunities, family gatherings, church and community functions. Decide which are the most important to you and say “no” to the rest.

3. Acknowledge your emotions

If this is a particularly difficult time, give yourself permission to feel what you’re feeling. Have you lost someone dear to you? Are you struggling with depression? Do social gatherings trigger anxiety? Talk to someone about what you are feeling. It’s OK to feel this way. Painful emotions can lose some of their power, just by expressing them and getting them out in the open.

4. Set a budget and stick to it

Money can be a huge stressor during the holidays. Find ways to make gift-giving more affordable. Instead of buying each family member a gift, trade names or do a gift exchange. Give homemade gifts. 

5. Maintain healthy habits

From Thanksgiving to New Years, we are surrounded by sweets, snacks, and heavy meals. Remember that moderation is key. You don’t have to avoid all these yummy foods. Just don’t over-indulge in them. Limit alcohol consumption. Exercise regularly. Get adequate sleep. 

6. Focus on relationships

Relationships are more important than all the gifts, parties, and obligations. Focus on your most important relationships. If you are feeling lonely, reach out to someone who might also be feeling alone. Find support through friends, family members, or support groups. Finding ways to help others can also help get your mind off your own loneliness and help you feel better.

7. Set aside differences

People have strong opinions about things like  politics and COVID-19. Debates at family gatherings can spoil the festive atmosphere, so make family gatherings a “No Politics Zone.” Instead of discussing matters that create tension, focus on appreciating and enjoying each other’s company. Keep the focus on the things that bind you together, rather than divide you.

8. Set boundaries

It’s important to know your limits. Sometimes the best way to enjoy the holidays is to limit the amount of time you spend in certain settings. If family functions are difficult due to dysfunctional family relationships, it’s OK to limit the time you spend together. Know when it’s time to leave. Plan in advance how you can gracefully dismiss yourself, should the need arise.

9. Take time for yourself

You can’t give to others if your emotional tank is running on fumes. Find time for self-care. Set aside time to meditate or pray, relax with a good book, journal, or just breathe. 

10. Celebrate the real meaning of the holidays

We can get so caught up in the commercialism of the holidays that we forget what’s really important–faith and family. Thanksgiving is about being  thankful for our many blessings (rather than putting all our focus on Black Friday shopping or  football). During Hanukkah, Jewish people reflect on their lives and re-dedicate themselves to their faith. The true meaning of Christmas is about God sending us the free gift of a Savior through the birth of his son, Jesus. When we focus on the true meaning of the holidays we can find true peace.

Don’t Let Stress, Depression, or Anxiety Ruin Your Holiday Season.

If you are entering the holidays already struggling with anxiety, depression, grief, or other mental health issues, it’s important to offer yourself some compassion. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Get support. Plan for how you can best navigate the season by using the tips mentioned above.

Reach Out For Help from a Trained and Compassionate Counselor

If you are having a particularly hard time getting through the holidays, you may benefit from some professional support. Don’t let stress, depression, or anxiety ruin your holiday season. I can help you learn effective coping strategies, as well as help you determine healthy relational boundaries, so the holiday season goes more smoothly.

Reach out today!