Welcome to the holiday season, a whirlwind of gift-giving holidays, marketing blitzes, holiday parties, and activities galore that starts right after Halloween, builds to Thanksgiving, and continues to gain momentum until the end of the year.
While this season is meant to evoke feelings of love and joy, it is also a precursor to holiday stress for many. Cooking meals, shopping, baking, cleaning, and entertaining are just a few of the demands that come with the holidays. And if coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is spreading in your community, you may be feeling extra stressed or concerned about the health of you and your loved ones. You may also feel stressed, sad, or anxious if your holiday plans change due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, with a few practical tips, you can reduce the stress that comes with the holidays. You might even find that you enjoy the holidays more than you anticipated.
Tips to prevent holiday stress and depression
When stress is at its peak, it’s difficult to take a breather and regroup. Try to avoid stress and depression in the first place, especially if the holidays have previously taken an emotional toll on you. Being realistic, planning ahead, and seeking support can all help to prevent stress and depression.
Acknowledge your feelings
If someone close to you has recently died or you are unable to be with loved ones for other reasons, understand that it is natural to experience sadness and grief. It is acceptable to cry or express your emotions. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holidays.
Seek out community, religious, or other social events or communities if you are feeling lonely or isolated. Many people have websites, online support groups, social media accounts, or virtual events. They can offer comfort and companionship.
If you are experiencing holiday stress, it may be beneficial to discuss your concerns with a friend or family member. Try texting, calling, or video chatting with them.
Volunteering your time or doing something to help others is another excellent way to lift your spirits and broaden your circle of friends. Consider dropping off a meal and dessert at a friend’s house over the holidays.
Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or exactly the same as previous years. Traditions and rituals often change as families change and grow. Choose a few to keep and be open to making new ones.
If your adult children or other relatives are unable to visit you, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails, or videos. Alternatively, you can meet virtually via video call. Even if your holiday plans are different this year, you can still find ways to celebrate.
Set aside differences of opinion. Accept family and friends as they are, even if they don’t meet all of your expectations. Set aside complaints until a more appropriate time to discuss them. Also, be patient if others become upset or distressed when something goes wrong. They’re probably feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression as well. Maintain a budget. Decide how much money you can spend on gifts and food before you go shopping. Then stick to your spending plan. Don’t try to buy happiness with a flood of presents.
Consider the following alternatives:
- Make a charitable contribution in someone’s honor
- Make your own gifts
- Begin a gift exchange with your family
Plan ahead. Make time for shopping, baking, socializing with friends, and other activities. Consider whether you can buy any of your items online. Plan your menus first, and then make a shopping list. This will help to avoid last-minute scrambling to purchase forgotten ingredients. Also, make arrangements for help with meal preparation and cleanup. Learn to say no. Get in the habit of saying no. Saying yes when you should say no may leave you feeling bitter and overwhelmed. If you are unable to engage in every project or activity, your friends and colleagues will understand. If you can’t say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try removing something else from your schedule to compensate for the time lost.
Don’t give up on healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays turn into a free for all. Overindulgence worsens your stress and guilt.
Consider the following ideas:
- Before holiday meals, eat a healthy snack to avoid overindulging in sweets, cheese, or beverages
- Eat nutritious foods
- Get lots of rest
- Incorporate regular physical activity into your daily routine
- Experiment with deep breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga
- Cut back on tobacco, alcohol, and drugs
Recognize how the information culture can cause undue stress, and adjust your time spent reading news and using social media as needed. Take a breather. Set aside some time for yourself. Find a hobby that you enjoy. Take a break on your own. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may be enough to recharge your batteries enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that helps you relax by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing, and restoring your inner calm.
Some options may include:
- Going for a nighttime walk and stargazing
- Listening to soothing music
- Reading a book
Get professional help if you need it. If you require professional assistance, seek it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling sad or anxious all the time, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings persist, consult your doctor or a mental health professional.
Take control of the holidays. Don’t let the holidays become something you dread. Instead, take steps to prevent the stress and depression that can come during the holidays. Recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or personal demands, so you can deal with them before they cause a meltdown. You can find peace and joy during the holidays with a little forethought and positive thinking.