Holiday stress

Manage Your Biggest Holiday Challenge—Stress

‘Tis the season to be jolly, so say the sages of old. The holidays are generally a time when family and friends come together and share special moments and celebrate traditions. For many, however, the holidays can be very stressful and lonely.

These personal feelings may be the result of financial stress, loss of a loved one, fatigue, inability to be with one’s family and friends, over-commercialization of the holidays and/or having unrealistic expectations about one’s self or the holiday experience.  

Dr. Michelle Harcrow, assistant director of health education and promotion at The University of Alabama, suggests simplicity and realistic expectations to handle the stress associated with the holiday season.

“Something to consider during this time is that there are basically three areas in your life that you can balance– your time, your energy and your money,” says Harcrow. “Although stabilizing these three areas is not a cure-all, it can certainly help to relieve a huge load of holiday hassle and make January a better place to be.”

Below are some healthy tips for coping with holiday stress and depression, and these may be practically applied to having a healthier life, in general:

  • Choose realistic expectations for the holiday season – keep it simple!
  • Set realistic goals for yourself – again, SIMPLE!
  • Pace yourself. Do not take on more responsibilities than you can handle.
  • Make a list and prioritize the important activities. This can help make holiday tasks more manageable.
  • Be realistic about what you can and cannot do.
  • Do not put all your energy into just one day (i.e., Christmas Day, New Year's Eve). The holiday cheer can be spread from one holiday event to the next.
  • Live and enjoy the present.
  • Look to the future with optimism.
  • Don't set yourself up for disappointment and sadness by comparing today with the good old days of the past.
  • If you are lonely, try volunteering some time to help others.
  • Find holiday activities that are free, such as looking at holiday decorations, going window shopping without buying, and watching the winter weather, whether it's a snowflake or a raindrop.
  • Limit your drinking, since excessive drinking will only increase your feelings of depression.
  • Try something new. Celebrate the holidays in a new way.
  • Spend time with supportive and caring people.
  • Reach out, and make new friends.
  • Make time to contact a long-lost friend or relative, and spread some holiday cheer.
  • Make time for yourself!
  • Let others share the responsibilities of holiday tasks.
  • Keep track of your holiday spending. Overspending can lead to depression when the bills arrive after the holidays. Extra bills, with little budget to pay them, can lead to further stress and depression.

For those who enjoy the excitement and energy of the holidays, it’s important to be mindful of those who may have gone through some difficult changes in the past year.  Perhaps, in the true spirit of the season, consider inviting them to celebrate with you. This act of kindness can often serve to remind them that there is hope and a future.  

Harcrow can be reached at 205/348-3878, or msharcrow@cchs.ua.edu