Holiday Stress and Coping

Holiday Stress and Coping

The winter holidays offer us a great opportunity to reconnect with family and friends, share good meals, and reflect on the past year. But what about when social gatherings are stressful, family relationships are strained, or the activities involved bring up negative emotions?

This week we share several tips to help you get through the often stressful holiday season.

General pointers

  • Maintain your healthy habits. It’s not uncommon to let good habits slip when you’re out of your usual routine. This can certainly happen during the holidays. But these are precisely the times that we really need to practice good self-care. That means getting enough rest, taking time for exercise, and eating regular, balanced meals. If you’ve developed other habits like a regular meditation practice or hobbies, keep those up if possible. They can help you manage your stress. It also allows you to take some alone time. Many introverts need time alone to recharge after periods of being social. Recognizing that need in yourself can help.
  • Set reasonable expectations. It’s easy to get carried away and have fancy visions of holidays like we see in the movies. But it’s often not realistic. Try to take some pressure off yourself by acknowledging that some things will not go according to plan, and that’s OK. It’s not a reflection on you, and it doesn’t mean you won’t have a pleasant holiday.

Dealing with interpersonal challenges

  • Stick firm with with your boundaries and limitations. Families are great but there can often be conflicting opinions about where or how to spend holidays. If you’re feeling torn in multiple directions, remember that it’s OK to do what’s best for you. Maybe that means not flying across the country. Or maybe it means not seeing both sides of your family in a single day. You can politely, but firmly, decline any events you don’t feel up to joining. It can be helpful not to overschedule yourself and make sure that you have some down time between holiday events.

Anxiety-related tips

  • If traveling causes you anxiety, do your best to plan details in advance. Give yourself enough time to pack and double check. Allow time to get through the airport or make the drive. Make copies of any important documents so you don’t worry about losing them. Practice mindfulness and acceptance when you hit traffic or have flight delays. Breathe in, breathe out, and you’ll get through it.
  • Sometimes social anxiety crops up around the holidays. Remember that most people are as worried about themselves and how they look or act as you are. This means that they aren’t focused on you. It can be helpful to pay someone else a compliment. It makes them feel good and can take attention off you.