For many, the holidays signify a happy time of year, visiting with family and friends for various celebrations. However, regardless of how fun the events may be, the holidays can bring quite a bit of stress that can end up ruining the spirit – and take a toll on your overall health. Taking care to manage potential holiday stress will help you not only make it through the holidays, but actually enjoy them, as well.

Common Holiday Stressors

Every person’s holiday celebrations will be different, but there are some common stressors that become much more prevalent during the holidays. The scheduling demands of various parties or social gatherings can quickly book up your personal calendar, leaving little downtime. All of the gift shopping can do a number on your bank account, leading to excess debt or financial stress. If family or friends are coming in town, they may be staying with you, adding more cleaning tasks to your at-home to-do list and causing you to feel as though you are always having to provide entertainment for your guests. Some may experience stress or depression if they recently experienced a loss and are just going through the holidays for the first time without them. Holiday stress can be caused by any number of things, and what may not affect you may cause issues for others.

Manage Holiday Stress

While it may not be possible to avoid all of the stress that comes with the holidays, you can take steps to manage it and allow yourself to enjoy the season.

  • Don’t Force Happiness. For those who have experienced loss, or those who are unable to be with loved ones over the holidays, don’t try to avoid your feelings. Know that it’s okay to feel sad and just because it’s the holidays, you don’t have to automatically be jolly. Of course, allowing these feelings to consume you isn’t healthy, either, so try to find activities or places to go that will help lift your spirits, such as community or social events, religious groups, or volunteering.
  • Be Realistic and Embrace Change. The holidays are full of family traditions, but you can’t expect them to be the same year-over-year. Families change and grow and so do traditions. Choose activities that mean the most to you that you’d like to stick to, but be open to finding new ways to celebrate together. Scheduling conflicts do not mean those people don’t want to be with you – they may, in fact, be experiencing their own holiday stress.
  • Budget. It can be so fun to watch others open gifts you purchased for them or impress everyone with the fancy meal you worked so hard on, but once you start receiving the holiday bills, that happy feeling can quickly disintegrate. Before the holidays, figure out what you can realistically afford and actually stick with it. If you still aren’t sure how you’re going to manage a gift budget, try some alternatives, such as donating to a charity in their name, create and give homemade gifts, or, for larger families, discuss doing a gift exchange so you’re only purchasing for a few people instead of everyone.
  • Schedule Ahead and Know It’s Okay to Say No. Get all of your planned events down onto a calendar and be sure to plan the days needed for you to get your list done, such as shopping, baking, and more. If your schedule begins to become too full, understand that saying “no” is okay. Forcing yourself to go to an event or work overtime when you are already swamped or can only think of what’s waiting on your to-do list will only add to your stress. If you are needed more at work and can’t get away, go through your calendar and decide where you can remove some things to help balance it out.
  • Take Time for You. With everything going on, it is even more important to take some time to yourself. Even fifteen minutes of a soothing activity or breathing exercise can help reduce your stress level. If it’s not too cold outside, take an evening walk alone around the neighborhood. Separate yourself from distractions in another room and listen to soothing music or read a book.

Know When to Seek Help for Holiday Stress

Sometimes, no matter what you do, the stress or depression can feel overwhelming. If you find that you are experiencing feelings of sadness, anxiousness, hopelessness or physical issues such as an inability to sleep or physical discomfort regularly, it may be time to seek professional help from your doctor. Discuss your symptoms with your physician and they will be able to help by referring you to a specialist or with medication.

For those over the age of 65, we offer a Senior Life Solutions program at Decatur County Memorial Hospital. Those with symptoms of depression or anxiety can meet with the group three times per week and gain access to our professional staff including a board-certified psychiatrist, licensed social workers, registered nurse, and other professionals dedicated to your well-being. For more information on the Senior Life Solutions program, call 812-663-1139 or visit the program website.