Tips for coping with holiday stress

Tips for coping with holiday stress

By Dr. Katy Kamkar

Do you feel more stressed during the holiday season? Though, the holiday season is a time of joy, family gatherings and celebrations, for many people, it can also be a stressful time because of the numerous demands placed on them.

Various factors could contribute to more stress during the holiday season:

  • The number of social obligations such as family gatherings, friend gatherings, and holiday parties that people at times have to attend to could lead to anxiety and stress and feeling exhausted.
  • Tensions or conflicts occasionally arise during social gatherings.
  • At times, certain family members or close friends have not seen one another for several months or more, which could lead to some stress at the gatherings, in particular if strains in relationships exist.
  • Upsetting or traumatic events that have occurred during a holiday season could bring upsetting memories and in turn, feelings of sadness and isolation.
  • The death of a loved one or the inability to be with loved ones during the holiday season can contribute to feelings of loneliness and unhappiness.
  • Financial expenses and pressures can lead to financial strains and for some into financial debts.
  • Traveling, including booking for a flight and uncertainties in regards to weather conditions and delays, can be stressful. Traveling could also increase financial expenses.
  • Gift shopping, preparing holiday meals, and home decorations can contribute to more stress and fatigue.
  • The expectations and pressures we put on ourselves, including for instance wanting to have the “perfect gift, perfect meal or perfect home decorations” could contribute to unrealistic expectations, and, in turn, to feelings of disappointment.
  • The tendency of overindulge on sweets, food, alcohol or caffeine during holiday seasons could also take physical toll.

Some of the signs of stress include:

  • Feeling more irritable or moody
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Becoming more negative
  • Headaches, muscle tension or stomach problems
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Difficulty sleeping

Some tips for coping with holiday stress:

  • Time management: Plan things ahead of time. Make a list and prioritize your activities (e.g., shopping, gifts, meals, number of social gatherings).
  • Setting realistic goals and expectations. Reminding ourselves that things do not have to be “perfect” in order to be good. This also entails accepting the things we can do versus the things we cannot do. For example, accepting that there might not be enough time to attend all the social gatherings and that there might be a need to limit the number of social gatherings. Accepting that some of the desired gifts cannot not be purchased because of the financial expenses.
  • Setting up a budget and sticking with it. Planning and budgeting and keeping track of holiday spending can help prevent financial strains and feeling increased stress post holidays.
  • Sharing and delegating tasks and responsibilities, including holiday meals, home decorations and shopping and gifts. Asking for help, dividing responsibilities, sharing some activities or responsibilities can help alleviate stress, feelings of being overwhelmed with all the demands, and also create a sense of togetherness.
  • If you feel lonely or sad during the holiday seasons, seek social support among friends or family. Some groups or religious organizations can provide you with great opportunity to meet people and not being alone.
  • Taking care of self. Setting up proper sleep hygiene; reducing negativity; engaging in a regular pleasurable activity (e.g., taking a walk; listening to music; reading a book); eating healthy diet; limiting alcohol and caffeine consumption and sweets; and doing regular physical exercise.
  • If suffering from a substance use problem, holiday season can be difficult due to the social gatherings and the use of alcohol during those times. An online guide from CAMH called “Low Risk Drinking Guidelines” helps to reduce the harms related to alcohol use. Here are some more helpful tips from CAMH to lower your risks as a host when having a party.
  • Helping those in need can provide a good feeling. You can help out at a food bank or other organizations or donate clothes or toys to those in need.
  • Seeking professional help, family doctor or a mental health professional, if you need it. If the signs of stress last for some period of time, increasing your overall distress level or interfering with your day to day functioning, then it might be important to consult a health care professional.

Remind yourself to enjoy the moment and the present time and the experiences that holiday seasons bring.

November 30, 2009 source: CTV News

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