coping techniques for managing holiday stress

Holidays can be a stressful time for many people; for this reason,  it is important to have a plan for managing those holiday expectations. For many people, when they think about the holidays, they envision times of happiness from past memories of being with their loved ones, exchanging gifts, celebrating traditions, etc. Those expectations can be overpowering, whether it’s bringing new children to meet other relatives, bringing friends to meet your relatives, or bringing your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife together with your family for the first time, these interactions can be positively and/or negatively overwhelming. For others, the holidays bring about loneliness, anxiety, and sadness, among many other depressive symptoms. These negative aspects of the holidays, for some, may make them feel daunted by a dreaded time being around relatives who you may not have such a good rapport with. Having to act cheery, when you may not be feeling completely up to it, is a recipe for a miserable holiday experience..

“It is pivotal to take a breath and recognize what is realistic and what may be overwhelming to you, and not try to overexert yourself to appease people”

It is during this season that suicide rates increase, and anxiety and depression also spike in many people. During the holidays the duality mood may be attributed to the  “broken promises theory” (Beauchamp, Ho, and Yin, 2014, p. 778). The “broken promises” theory states that “individuals may be influenced by holidays because they tend to promote hope or improved moods. However, if the expectations are not met, the individual may be frustrated and disappointed and perhaps prone to suicidal reactions” (Beauchamp, Ho, and Yin, 2014, p. 778). For this reason, it is important to consider the delicacy in your well-being at this time, as well as the well-being of others. “Whether you associate the season with enjoyment, dread, or a mix of everything in between, feeling prepared for the holidays can go a long way toward maintaining (or reclaiming) your well-being” (Healy, 2017).

Please see the list of tips to consider in managing holiday expectations.

Set boundaries

First, recognize the expectations you have from others and are putting on yourself. It is important to understand that the holiday season can be filled with unrealistic expectations. It is pivotal to take a breath and recognize what is realistic and what may be overwhelming to you, and not try to overexert yourself to appease people. Set realistic expectations for yourself, in what you can do and what you may not be able to do this holiday season, and create a plan to not exhaust all of your financial resources on gifts.

Realistic scheduling

Secondly, as the holiday season approaches, please note that peoples schedules become hectic with family events, company holiday parties,  recitals, time off of work for vacation., etc. It is important to not overwhelm yourself with trying to attend every function that you are invited to  and to not take it personally when people may not be able to attend the events that you invite them to, due to prior obligations.

Not everyone celebrates or celebrates the same thing

Thirdly, understand not everyone has the same feelings about the holidays, so try not to impose your holiday beliefs on others, and vice versa. Keep in mind not everyone has the same religious and cultural beliefs or traditions. By imposing, you may be offending the person(s), even if it’s unintentional. So one must be careful in holiday expression when incorporating others.

Seek support

Fourth, seek help if needed. If you’re struggling with managing expectations or getting through the holidays, please seek support from friends, relatives, or professionals. There’s always someone to assist you in coping with managing your stress, anxiety, or depression due to the holiday season.

Do you

Lastly, take some time for yourself, enjoy yourself. Do whatever makes you happy! Do not force yourself to fit into someone else’s view of what you should be doing during the holiday season. 

Nate Ross is a therapist at Lynnwood Pacific Mental Health. He is currently accepting new patients. You can schedule an appointment with him, or one of our other mental health professionals here.

References:

Beauchamp, G., Ho, M., & Yin, S. (2014). Variation in Suicide Occurrence by Day and during Major American Holidays. The Journal of Emergency Medicine46(6), 776–781. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jemermed.2013.09.023

Shawn Healy. (2017). Ways to increase holiday well-being. Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.