Holiday Stress

Stress and depression can ruin your holidays and hurt your health. Being realistic, planning ahead and seeking support can help ward off stress and depression.

First we have to see what some of the causes are:

Bad memories:

You may associate the holidays with a bad time in your life such as the loss of a loved one, or something that happened or was missing in your childhood.

Toxic relatives:

You spend the entire year avoiding certain family members, but then have to spend an entire dinner with them. It could be very destructive when these relatives don’t understand the stress and anxiety you may be experiencing.

Life changes:

A lot can happen in a year. You could have had a death in the family, lost your job, had your child leave to attend post-secondary. Major life changes can always lead to stress, especially around the holidays.

Non-life changes:

Some people feel stressed because nothing changed in the year and they are still living in a monotonous routine.

Changes in lifestyle:

You are really good all year maintaining a daily routine and eating well. Then suddenly you are thrown off track by indulging in extra sweets and meals that you normally wouldn’t eat. You also aren’t exercising the way you normally are and probably have come down with a cold or flu. Any of these factors could lead to disrupting your sleep habits, which may lead to more stress and anxiety around the holidays.

After recognizing some of the causes of holiday stress, the following practical tips can help in coping with and managing your stress levels.

  • It’s okay to cry. If someone close to you has recently died or you can't be with loved ones, realize that it's normal to feel sadness and grief.
  • Join an event. There are plenty of community or religious events this time of year to sign up for to offer support and companionship. Volunteering for an event can also help elevate your mood.
  • Set realistic expectations. The holidays don't have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones.
  • Be accepting. Put those family grievances or difference of opinion aside until the new year. Accept different lifestyle choices for family members, and realize that they may be feeling stressed too.
  • Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That'll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.
  • It’s okay to say no.You can’t do it all, or you will burn out. Limit your overtime, as well as tell yourself you don’t have to attend every holiday party. Make sure you have a clear agenda of your commitments. Rank what you feel is the most important so you don’t miss it or feel stressed around it.
  • Rest. Make sure you make time for yourself. If you don’t refresh, then you will burn yourself out. There are plenty of things you can do, even if it is only 20 minutes. Read a book, take a walk, or have a hot bath. You will be surprised at how great you feel the next day.
  • Don’t be afraid of professional help. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.