The holidays can be a joyful time, offering a chance to reconnect with friends and family. But they also can be stressful. Maybe you are worried about money, and there never seems to be enough time to get things done.
“Out-of-town guests, parties, shopping lists, menus. For many people, the crush of activity during the holiday season prevents them from enjoying what should be a joyful time,” said Don Mordecai, MD, national leader for Mental Health and Wellness, and director of The Permanente Medical Group Mental Health & Chemical Dependency Services. “If people who are prone to holiday stress can identify the usual triggers, they can head it off with a little thought and planning.”
Here are some tips for taming holiday stress:
Preparing for the holidays
- Know your spending limit. Money worries are among the biggest causes of stress during the holiday season. Set a budget, and don’t spend more than you’ve planned. It’s OK to tell your children that a certain toy costs too much. Don’t buy gifts that you’ll spend the rest of the year trying to pay off.
- Give something personal. You can show love and caring with any gift that is meaningful and personal. It doesn’t have to cost a lot. Or use words instead of an expensive gift to let people know how important they are to you. Make a phone call or write a note and share your feelings.
- Get organized. Make lists or use an appointment book to keep track of tasks to do and events to attend.
- Share the tasks. You don’t have to do everything yourself. Share your to-do list with others. Spend time with friends and family while you share tasks like decorating, wrapping gifts, and preparing the holiday meal.
- Learn to say no. It’s okay to say “no” to events that aren’t important to you. This will give you more time to say “yes” to events that you want to attend.
- Be realistic. Try not to put pressure on yourself to create the perfect holiday for your family. Focus instead on the traditions that make holidays special for you. And remember that just because it’s a holiday, family problems don’t go away. If you have a hard time being around your relatives, it’s okay to set limits on your time at events and visits.
During the holidays
- Take breaks from group activities. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Spend a little time by yourself if you can. Meditate, or do some relaxation breathing. Go for a short walk.
- Keep a regular sleep, meal, and exercise schedule. Limit your alcohol. Taking care of yourself will help you deal with stressful situations during the holidays.
- Get support if you need it. Holidays can sometimes trigger depression. They can be especially hard if you are already dealing with the death of a loved one or the breakup of a relationship. You may feel embarrassed to ask for help, or you may think that you’ll get over “the blues” on your own. But most people need treatment to get better. Talk with your doctor about counseling and medicine for depression.
Want more local health news, wellness tips, recipes, and more? Subscribe to the Kaiser Permanente Washington newsletter.