For those who struggle with mental health conditions, the holiday season can trigger anxiety-provoking feelings that can be difficult to manage. With inflation driving up the cost of everything from monthly bills to consumer goods, it can be challenging to look forward to the holiday season knowing your financial situation and how much everything is going to cost you.
Financial stress can trigger a slew of other issues and can impact your mental health, relationships, job performance, and overall well-being.
Fortunately, the awareness of financial stress and mental health continues to increase. There are several ways you can prepare for the upcoming holiday season to manage stress and ensure you still have an enjoyable time with your loved ones.
How to Combat Financial Stress This Holiday Season
Making financial decisions during the holidays can be difficult — while the season is about giving, it can be challenging to limit the money you spend with so many upcoming plans. However, there are steps you can take to reduce stress and anxiety related to spending money and supporting your mental health in the process.
Here are some tips to avoid debt and still have a memorable, special holiday season with the people you love.
Be transparent with family members
Gift-giving is one of the most significant holiday traditions for many families around the world. Still, with inflation causing financial problems for so many, perhaps this is the year to stop buying gifts and focus on spending joyful time together instead. Many people underestimate how much financial stress can be caused by excessive spending during the holiday season.
Being open and transparent with your friends and family is an effective way to manage any impending holiday financial stress you are feeling. Data from the National Retail Federation (NRF) suggests that Americans spent nearly $1,000 in 2022 on gifts, food, and decorations to celebrate the holidays.
With economic signals potentially pointing towards a recession, people might hunker down and refrain from spending that amount to avoid the financial burden of the holiday season.
If this is more money than you are able (or willing) to spend during the holidays, have a conversation with your loved ones about setting a holiday budget in order to reduce financial stress. While it may not entirely relieve stress, it will help you avoid getting into any unnecessary debt.
Chances are good that your family and friends are also feeling stressed about buying gifts and will be open to setting a budget for gift-giving in order to reduce spending.
If you feel anxious about having a conversation about money, keep in mind that your financial goals and stability are more important than any material item you can give someone.
Take care of yourself
The stress and anxiety of the holiday season can impact your physical health just as much as your mental health. That’s why taking care of yourself during the holidays has never been more important.
Mismanaged stress can often lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms, like eating and drinking. These kinds of indulgent behaviors are common around the holidays, when your refrigerator may be more stocked with food and alcohol.
Be sure to make yourself a priority during the chaotic holiday season by exercising regularly, eating a healthy, balanced diet (in between all the treats, of course!), getting enough sleep, and practicing self-care however you do during the rest of the year.
During the holidays, it can be easy to pause the important routines you have to maintain your mental and physical health; those things require time out of your day, and the holidays offer more activities and events to attend.
However, this season is when your body and mind need more care than ever because of the increase in social activity and obligations, holiday traditions, and other events. Be sure you are drinking plenty of water, practicing mindfulness, and checking in with yourself. The demands of the holidays can be detrimental to people with anxiety disorders and depression, as their normal routines are thrown out of wack. For your own well-being, don’t let pressure from friends and family allow you to let your mental health fall by the wayside.
The majority of these seasonal gatherings require some kind of holiday spending, from bringing a white elephant gift exchange to chipping in for a meal, these can add up quickly and leave you feeling depleted and stressed about your financial situation.
Maintaining your physical and mental health during the holidays won’t cure your financial stress by any means. It will help you to think clearly, make responsible decisions about what you can realistically afford, and avoid digging yourself into debt from overspending.
To avoid debt and overspending, make a plan well ahead of time, so you know what your holiday expenses will be and what you can realistically afford.
Prioritize the important events that matter and make a plan for the costs related to those events. Planning ahead can reduce stress and help you to say no to certain situations that may be expensive.
Research suggests that those who struggle with debt and financial challenges are more than twice as likely to suffer from depression. Steps you can take to avoid debt and reduce financial burden during the holidays include:
- Allocating funds for meaningful gifts
- Paying monthly bills on time
- Paying cash instead of putting everything on your credit card
- Shopping during big sales like Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday
By planning ahead, you can create a strategy to enjoy the holidays without the stress of buying last-minute gifts and overspending on activities.
Suppose your calendar is getting too full of events, gift exchanges, and other activities that cost money. In that case, it can be beneficial to set a clear boundary with family members and friends about what you’re willing to spend or attend.
Perhaps your partner who makes the financial decisions loves to spoil the kids in the family with elaborate gifts or by taking them on expensive shopping trips during the holidays. Maybe your mother sends you gift ideas that are way out of your budget, or friends expect you to host an annual holiday dinner at your home.
Whatever events or situations make you feel anxious should be addressed sooner rather than later. Set expectations with your loved ones about what you are capable of providing and participating in this year. Spending money just for the sake of doing so is certainly not what the holidays are about; now more than ever, it’s healthy to re-think holiday spending so it works for your finances and your mental health.
Talk to someone about holiday-related stress and anxiety
Whether you have a partner, coworker, friend, or family member, having a reliable sounding board is important during the holidays. Many people feel more alone and isolated during the holidays, even when they are surrounded by people.
More than half of Americans feel negative about the holidays because of financial stress and holiday spending that feels unavoidable. The pressure to buy gifts and pay off debt simultaneously can be overwhelming, so it’s important to have someone you trust that you can talk to.
A mental health professional can provide coping strategies to alleviate the side effects of stress and anxiety, along with other mental health resources and tips to make stressful conversations about money less triggering and more productive.
Need anxiety support during the holiday season? Clear Behavioral Health is here for you.
For many Americans, the holiday season can be lonely, stressful, and triggering. For those struggling with anxiety and depression, financial problems are heightened during this time of year and can suck the joy out of the season.
If you are living with a mental health condition and holiday spending is contributing to your anxiety, Clear Behavioral Health’s Virtual IOP for stress and anxiety can help.
Our treatment programs offer a variety of care options for conditions including stress, anxiety, and depression. Our online care team can help you gain skills to cope with the stress of the holiday season, including pressure from family, feelings of loneliness, and anxiety about your financial situation, all from the comfort of your own home. Contact us today for more information.