Crisp mornings and evenings. Friday night football. Trees displaying those vivid colors. This is a wonderful time of year. Which means the holiday season is upon us. While advertisements and greeting cards promote peace and joy during this time of the year, the reality is that the holidays can be a very difficult and stressful time. Financial pressure, grief from lost loved ones and the general “winter blues” are not uncommon. In addition, holiday celebrations will look a lot different this year, which can add to stress and anxiety many are already feeling.
Make sure you’re taking care of yourself to help prevent and manage any negative feelings. Here are some tips on how to cope with stress and depression during the holidays:
- Recognize when and why you’re feeling stressed. If you can’t be around loved ones this year or are grieving the loss of someone close to you, recognize that it’s normal to feel sad. Express your feelings when needed and don’t force yourself to be happy.
- Practice self-care. Take time to reflect and recharge by doing the things that bring you joy – reading a book, taking a walk, listening to music, etc. Focus on the present instead of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.
- Budget your finances. Set yourself up for success by setting a budget for your holiday spending. This will help you avoid financial stress that comes with gift giving, food shopping and other seasonal expenses. If money is tight this year, consider making your gifts, donating to a charity in your loved one’s name or creating memories by spending time together.
- Budget your time. Your time is just as important as your finances – make the most of it by planning ahead. If you’re planning a holiday celebration, schedule days for menu planning, shopping, cooking, prep and cleanup. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, ask for help and allow yourself to say no to other projects or activities. Don’t forget to schedule self-care, too – even 15 minutes can make a big difference in how you feel.
- Maintain healthy habits. Allow yourself the occasional holiday treat, but make sure not to overindulge. This can lead to further stress and guilt. Balance yourself with healthy snacks, plenty of sleep and regular physical activity.
- Seek support when needed. If you’re feeling the effects of loneliness or sadness, try finding support by interacting with a community group or loved ones. If possible, volunteer your time to others who might need it. If you’re unable to overcome the stress or it’s starting to affect your day-to-day life, it’s not uncommon to seek professional help to get you back on track.
- Be realistic. The holidays will be different this year for everyone. Instead of dwelling on the limitations, focus on what you do have control over. Find new ways to connect with your loved ones and celebrate together, even if it’s virtual!
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the stress of the holidays – trying to plan a safe celebration while managing your own mental and physical health. Be conscious of where you spend your time and energy and recognize what causes you stress. Plan ahead, take time for yourself when needed and remember what’s important about the holiday season. Read more tips for holiday stress management from the Mayo Clinic*.
Arvest wishes you safe and happy holidays!