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Steps to Prevent Stress and Depression During the Holidays

Holidays 2020

The holiday season often brings unwelcome guests — stress, anxiety and depression. Along with the holiday spirit also comes cooking, cleaning, baking, entertaining, shopping, in-laws and out-laws, house guests and other stressful events. This year, 2020, may add some extra sprinkles to the season: coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), which has impacted people’s schools, work, and how we feel and behave in our community. This is likely to additional worrying about this year’s holiday plans.

When stress is at its peak, it can be difficult to stop and find ways to prevent stress and depression in the first place. This is especially true if the holidays have taken a toll in the past.

Below are some suggestions on how to minimize the stress that accompanies the holidays

1. Acknowledge your feelings. This is often the time of year that comes with memories with loved ones. If someone has passed away or can no longer be with you due to circumstances (i.e., divorce, location, illness, etc.), embrace that it is normal to feel sadness. It is okay to cry and express your feelings.

2. Don't abandon healthy habits. Make efforts not to let the holidays become a month-long overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Some suggestions include: Get plenty of sleep. Do not go to each party with aa completely empty stomach. This will help you from eating and drinking everything in sight. Eat healthy meals whenever you have the opportunity. You want to enjoy the holiday foods. However, you will not want to enjoy the weight gain if not mindful. Get outside for fresh air and move.

3. Be realistic. The holidays don't have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children or other relatives can't come to your home, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos. Or meet virtually on a video call. Even though your holiday plans may look different this year, you can find ways to celebrate

4. Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, connecting with friends and other activities. On-line shopping, buying in bulk and considering stores hours/locations can save time. Plan your menus, make a list and not going to stores hungry can also keep stress at a manageable level.

5. Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are. The holidays are not a time to squabble over different attitudes and belief systems. Set aside grievances and be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are you are not the only one feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression.

6. Stick to a budget. This time of year can be stressful financially. Many people over-extend and forget the reason behind the season. It may be even worse this year due to loss of income and other changes in circumstances from the pandemic. Before you do your gift and food shopping, decide how much money you and your family can afford; stick to a budget. Homemade gifts, gift exchanges, thoughtful handwritten notes and time doing things for someone are some money saving alternatives.

7. Learn to say no. Many people feel obligated to say YES to accept invitations, donate to a cause, prepare/host for an event and a handful of other holiday requests. This may cause one to feel resentful, overwhelmed and stressed. Others will understand if you are unable to participate in every project or activity.

8. Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out to those you know. Talk to a friend or family member about your concerns. Try reaching out with a text, a call or a video chat. This is often a good time of year to volunteer, which can allow you to help others while meeting other volunteers. Consider dropping off a meal and dessert at a friend's home during the holidays. There are community activities, religious or other social events that may be advertised. Many may have websites, online support groups, social media sites or virtual events. They can offer diversion, companionship as well as support.

9. Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending too much time with friends, relatives, traveling shopping, cooking, cleaning, working to allow for time off can cause emotional dysregulation. Having breaks to oneself, without distractions, can refresh the mind to handle everything you need to do. Read a book, listen to music, take a long bath are some suggestions that can reduce stress.

10. Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

Learn to recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or personal demands. Planning and positive thinking can allow you to find peace and joy during the holidays… even in 2020.

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