We gather for the holidays with family and friends, seeking peace and joy. But for some of us, it’s the season of stress and depression. Visions of warmth and happiness run head-long into too many expectations. We face overwhelming demands, from the hustle and bustle of shopping to caring for family members and more. We are here to say it is okay to not feel jolly 100% of the time, and you are not alone. Read on for some ways to cope and overcome holiday anxiety and stress…(we can do this together!)


As the holidays approach and many of us look forward to celebrating with our families and loved ones, there can also be heightened stress and anxiety associated with the festivities. For instance, oftentimes we visit family or friends who we may otherwise not see regularly, and old tensions or unresolved conflicts can be brought to the surface. The potential rise in expenses incurred (travel, gifts), and/or the oftentimes heightened expectations for perfection during this time of year, can lead to individuals being under too much pressure during this season.

No wonder stress and depression are common this time of year. Unfortunately, many of us don’t want to talk about our symptoms. We suffer in silence. With so much on our shoulders and constantly being on ‘the go’ during these times, here are some ways to keep your cool in the heat of the moments this winter season.

EXERCISE

There are so many benefits to exercising. It's not only great for your physical body but it's also good for your mind as well, giving your mental health the venting that it needs from all the stress. It helps to boost endorphins in your brain that improve your mood. It can also help you to get better sleep at night and to release anxiety, tension, and anger that you may be feeling. Even though things get busier for you around the holidays it's still important to take time to exercise.

LET GO OF EXPECTATIONS

We can't all live like the happy family on those Hallmark movies, and that's okay! So don't feel you need to live up to the unrealistic expectations depicted in the media or on social media. Doing too many things, spending too much money, or eating or drinking too much can lead to even greater feelings of despair. Think simple. It’s OK to say no during any time of the year.

DON'T BE AFRAID TO SWITCH UP TRADITION

The holidays are usually full of tradition. However, if you are feeling down or depressed, you may not want to go through the motions of the normal activities that you do. That's okay. Don't pressure yourself into trying to keep up with things that you did years ago when you were feeling much better. It's okay to relax on the traditions and let some things go until you feel better. This will be better for your mental health in the long run.

DEVELOP A HOLIDAY BUDGET

If finances are a source of anxiety, decline gift exchanges in favor of low-cost activities that you can share with loved ones. Offer to have someone over for a home-cooked meal, or plan a coffee date. It’s also not unreasonable to set spending limits or make homemade gifts if you can’t avoid a gift exchange.


LEARN TO SAY NO

There are only so many functions you can attend (or host), especially if you are busy with your day-to-day obligations and have limited time off. Trying to be too many places or get your house looking pristine for company can make get-togethers that are supposed to be enjoyable end up overwhelming. “No” isn’t a negative or bad word and can actually be positive. If you think about it, when you say no to certain holiday events, it frees you up to say yes to other events that really matter to you.

GET SOME FRESH AIR

Studies have shown winter’s decreasing daylight can lead to seasonal affective disorder, so any time spent outdoors can be helpful. Just a few minutes a day has been proven to improve both our moods and our physical health, leading to reduced stress and increased self-esteem.

SET ASIDE DIFFERENCES

Accept family members and friends as they are. Set aside grievances until after the holidays when it might be a more appropriate time for discussion. Also, be understanding if others get upset or distressed. Chances are they're feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.

This year, enjoy the holidays and whatever comes after.

If you have tried these tips and still feel overwhelmed, please contact your health care provider

for more support.

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