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Stress During the Holidays: Common Causes and How to Manage

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Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years. When these events are right around the corner, you can’t help feeling excited but you may also feel nervous and stressed as the time flies by and we get closer to each holiday. This duality is very common whenever an important event or celebration is coming up, however, its prevalence seems to be magnified during the holiday season due to financial components, family dynamics, and time constraints. Furthermore, if you struggle with a mental illness, this time of year can be even more taxing and exacerbate any symptoms you may have. In this article, we will examine some common causes of stress during the holidays and provide some tips to help you manage the stress effectively.

Common Causes of Holiday Stress

Whether you’re hosting all of the holiday gatherings or attending what feels like one too many parties, it is common to feel overwhelmed during this time of year. Here are some common causes of holiday stress:

  • Holiday Parties: From planning to attending, holiday parties can create a considerable amount of stress. Perhaps you want everyone to have a good time and neglect your own happiness, or you want to impress someone at a work event and miss out on the holiday cheer.
  • Finances: Along with the holidays comes a significant financial component that can feel like a burden. It is extremely difficult to avoid spending money during this time. From gift-giving to food and even traveling, financial stress over the holidays is hard to avoid.
  • Family Dynamics: Family gatherings can cause anyone to feel stressed, even outside of the holiday season. During this time of year, you may see more family members than you’d like in a short period of time or want to spend more time with certain people and avoid other family members. This can be especially difficult if you struggle with mental health and someone brings up sensitive subjects without good intentions.
  • Social Obligations: Aside from family, you may be invited to a number of events that occupy a lot of time in your schedule. Balancing your time and finding a way to fit it all might interfere with necessary self-care.
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): This is a mental health condition that is very common during the fall and winter months. It is a form of depression that some people experience as the seasons change. If you’re already feeling a little down, the holidays can create an unfavorable amount of stress.

Without a doubt, there is more that can be added to this list. Everyone experiences the holiday season differently. That being said, it can be difficult to avoid these stressors. The good news is, that there are ways you can manage the stress and get the most out of this time of year.

Tips for Managing Stress During the Holidays

The holiday season activates a wide range of feelings for individuals. From feelings of joy to feelings of loneliness, being aware of how you’re feeling and knowing what to do about it can help bring calmness and inner peace during such a stressful time. Here are some tips for managing stress during the holidays:

  • Don’t compare yourself to others: Remember that you are your own worst critic. Critical thoughts of yourself are influenced by comparisons and can hinder your levels of happiness
  • Practice acts of kindness: Helping others releases dopamine, causing feelings of reward and motivation. Giving compliments or helping others can help bring a sense of empowerment for both the giver and the receiver.
  • Appreciate the little things: Instead of focusing on material items, think about what you enjoy doing and how it makes you feel.
  • Practice gratitude: Think about the things and people you’re thankful for in your life. Asking family and friends what they’re grateful for is a great conversation starter.
  • Do things in small doses: Create a calendar to avoid overextending yourself. Avoid unnecessary stress by remembering to take breaks during your scheduled events.
  • Set a zone of privacy: Remember that you always have a right to say “no”. Set boundaries for yourself. Think about what you’re comfortable discussing with others and what topics to avoid talking about.
  • Create your own moments: Do something you love. Give yourself something to look forward to and schedule time to allow yourself to recharge. Some alone time amidst social gatherings can go a long way.
  • Give yourself a break: If you find yourself in a stressful situation, step away and take deep breaths. Practice self-care by taking time for yourself. What helps you relax? What is your most comfortable outfit to wear? Where are you most comfortable?
  • Be true to yourself and accept others as they are: Avoid taking things personally. Try putting yourself in the other person’s situation to understand their perspective. Remember, excusing yourself for a breather when you start to feel uncomfortable is always an option.
  • Practice self-awareness: Set limits for yourself and plan ahead to avoid feeling overwhelmed. How are you feeling? Do you need to take a break?
  • Practice mindfulness: When feeling anxious, focus on the present moment and practice deep breathing.
  • Prioritize mental and physical well-being: It can be easy to lose sight of your own health during the holidays. Make sure you get enough sleep, see natural light, exercise, and eat healthy. Prioritizing these things can have a positive impact on your physical and mental health, especially during this time of year.

Manage Stress for good

For those who experience stress, it can be exacerbated by the added pressures of the holiday season. When attempting to manage stress with some of the tips above fails, reaching out to a support group or mental health professional can make a big difference. Oftentimes, stress is accompanied by symptoms of other mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression and it can be extremely difficult to overcome these conditions without proper support and guidance. Deciding to get the help you need is a courageous step that leads to change. Engaging in mental health treatment and learning effective coping skills can transform your experience with the holidays from being the worst time, to the most wonderful time of the year.

If you or a loved one is having trouble managing stress during the holidays, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. At Clear Behavioral Health, our clinical team is dedicated to helping individuals manage stress. Call us today to learn more about our Virtual IOP serving all of California. You don’t have to go through this tough time alone.

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