Managing the stress of the holidays, getting to your to-do lists, purchasing gifts for family and friends, sending out holiday cards, cooking an extravagant meal with all parts ready at the same time while welcoming guests. These are the realities of the holiday season that we forget about after each “Happy New Year!” The holidays can be a magical time of the year and can help us reunite with family and friends. However, the holidays can also herald in additional stressors caused by family conflict, stretched finances, and efforts to get to every item on your “To-Do” list. These stressors can have a lasting negative impact on your mental and physical health far after the decorations are taken down. By following a few stress-free tips you can beat the holiday blues and get through one of the busiest times of the year.
Write a list of to-dos early on so that you are not overwhelmed. Not only will this improve your organization and reduce your stress, it can also help you reduce expenses by keeping you from last-minute shopping, decorations, or groceries. No one likes that last-minute rush to the store for another can of cranberry sauce.
While interacting with others being mindful of the tasks at hand can help reduce stress. It’s easy to worry about getting everything done for the holidays, but you’ll be more productive (and less stressed) if you focus on the present moment. Notice when your mind wanders to the future or the past and let go and return to the present without judgment. The UCLA web site has great podcasts on mindfulness activities. You can listen to any of the podcasts while you’re driving, cooking, or even before going to bed.
Take Care of Yourself.
Self-care doesn’t just mean showering and brushing your teeth anymore. Take time to center yourself each day. This doesn’t need to take hours. Take a short walk, head to the gym or sneak a quick workout in-between loads of laundry, sleep in, listen to your favorite music, give yourself an hour of alone time, or any other activity that brings you peace or happiness. There is no “right” answer when it comes to finding time for yourself.
Take note of certain situations or substances that may increase stress on your physical or mental health, such as alcohol, sugar, overeating, or political discussions. These can further exacerbate your stress response and negatively impact your mood.
Follow the 3-to-1 Rule.
If you make a negative statement towards someone, follow it up with at least three positive statements. Having primarily positive interactions can lead to productive and rewarding interactions and may make your overall experience a positive one. Instead of dwelling on a difficult past or present, make an effort to focus on what’s going RIGHT.
Reach Out. Call on your support system if you notice signs of stress or depression. Even a quick call to your partner, friends, or family to share your thoughts, feelings or concerns can lessen the burden and provide you with a new perspective. Be sure to also provide support to loved ones who may be in the throes of holiday stress.
IF IT GETS TO BE TOO MUCH – Seek Professional Help.
If you notice your stress level is more severe or that you (or a loved one) feel more irritable, withdrawn, or depressed, you can reach out for professional help. Signs of depression can include decreased interest or pleasure, weight loss or weight gain, insomnia or hypersomnia, low energy, decreased concentration, and/or thoughts of death. You can reach out to your primary care physician or a therapist, such as a psychologist, social worker, marriage family therapist, counselor, or local faith leader. In the event of a crisis, you can also call the Access and Crisis line at 888.724.7240.
Many medical and mental health providers provide Telehealth services. Tri-City Medical Center Outpatient Behavioral Health Services has virtual treatment options for patients who would benefit from Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) care. These include services such as major depression, anxiety disorders and more. To get started please call 760.940.5051 for fill out an appointment request.
Don’t let the holidays become a reason to cringe instead of a reason to celebrate. Taking a few preventative measures to curb stress, anxiety, or depression can be well worth it. With a little mindfulness and planning, you can find joy and peace during the holidays no matter what this season throws at you.
Wishing you & your family a happy & healthy holiday season from
Tri-City Medical Center,
Sarah Jayyousi, MSW, LPCC, LCSW
Outpatient Behavioral Health Services