Holidays are a time of joy, wonder, family traditions and festive gatherings. But for many people, the season of cheer can be the most difficult time of year.
If the holidays make you feel like you have less time, more responsibilities and a whole lot of unrealistic expectations to deal with, you’re not alone. More than 40 percent of people feel more stressed during the holidays than the rest of the year, according to the American Psychological Association. Studies also show that 64 percent of people with mental health disorders – such as depression and anxiety – feel that their conditions get worse during the holidays.
Fortunately, there are ways to help manage your stress and make the season brighter.
Why are holidays so stressful for some people?
From shopping and travel to managing work deadlines and overbooked social calendars, it’s no wonder people are overwhelmed this time of year.
Some of the biggest holiday stressors include:
- Financial stress.
- Lack of time to get everything done.
- Commercialism and hype of the holiday season.
- Pressure on giving or getting gifts.
- Difficult family dynamics and conflicts.
- Holiday eating and social drinking.
- Grief associated with the loss of loved ones or personal trauma.
This time of year can be especially taxing for women, who typically take on more of the holiday tasks, from gift-buying and entertaining to maintaining holiday traditions. And that’s on top of their normal day-to-day work in the office and/or at home.
What are the common signs of holiday stress?
Holiday stress looks a lot like regular day-to-day stress. Some typical signs may include:
- Physical symptoms like headaches, body aches and muscle tension.
- Feeling overwhelmed, anxious or irritable.
- Loss of interest in things that used to bring you pleasure.
- Changes in sleep patterns or difficulty sleeping.
- Excessive drinking or overeating.
How can I manage my stress during the holidays?
The hustle and bustle of the holidays can take a toll, but there are strategies that can help you manage your stress and bolster your mental health – throughout the holidays and all year-round.
- Make (and stick to) a gift-giving plan. Talk with your family and friends about setting spending and giving limits and make a budget before you pull out the credit card.
- Check your expectations. The “Insta-perfect” holiday doesn’t exist. Give yourself some grace, focus on the things that are most important to you and soak up the moment. Most important, know it’s ok to set boundaries and say “no”. For instance, if a family gathering is too stressful to navigate, opt to spend time with family, friends or even alone.
- Make time for you. The holidays aren’t only about giving. It’s also important to take care of yourself. That means eating right (most of the time), exercising regularly, and making time to rest, relax and reset.
- Head outside. Research shows that time outdoors can lessen stress, decrease anxiety levels and boost your mood.
- Get enough sleep. Adequate shuteye is the key to better mental health. Learn more about how lack of sleep affects your health and what you can do to sleep better.
- Limit or skip the boozy eggnog. Alcohol is a depressant and can negatively affect feelings, thoughts and actions. Too much holiday cheer only worsens stress.
- Stay connected and find the help you need. Support comes in many forms, from a network of family and friends to the help of a mental health professional. When stress becomes more than you can handle, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Is holiday stress upping your worries and fears? Find out how to recognize and cope with anxiety.
When holiday stress is too much, Indigo can help
When de-stressing strategies aren’t enough and the holidays are affecting your mental wellbeing, Indigo is a great place to go for help.
Indigo Virtual Care offers mental health screenings for adults 18 and older. Simply complete a quick questionnaire on your favorite device and get connected with a trusted clinician via video to talk about a care plan and treatment options.
Indigo Virtual Care visits are available 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day – including holidays – at indigohealth.com.
When you need immediate help
If you or a loved one is in severe mental distress or has suicidal thoughts or behaviors, seek emergency treatment immediately. The following resources are free, confidential and available 24/7.