Tips to prevent holiday stress and depression
When stress is at its peak, it's hard to stop and regroup. Try to
prevent stress and depression in the first place, especially if the
holidays have taken an emotional toll on you in the past.
- Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to
you has recently died or you can't be with loved ones, realize that it's
normal to feel sadness and grief. It's OK to take time to cry or
express your feelings. You can't force yourself to be happy just because
it's the holiday season.
- Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek
out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support
and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good
way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
- 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 can't
come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing
pictures, emails or videos.
- Set aside differences. Try to accept family
members and friends as they are, even if they don't live up to all of
your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time
for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed
when something goes awry. Chances are they're feeling the effects of
holiday stress and depression, too.
Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food
shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to
your budget. Don't try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts.
Try these alternatives:
- Donate to a charity in someone's name.
- Give homemade gifts.
- Start a family gift exchange.
- Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for
shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus
and then make your shopping list. That'll help prevent last-minute
scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help
for party prep and cleanup.
- Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say
no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and
colleagues will understand if you can't participate in every project or
activity. If it's not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work
overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for
the lost time.
Don't abandon healthy habits. Don't let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.
Try these suggestions:
- Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don't go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Incorporate regular physical activity into each day.
Take a breather. Make some time for yourself.
Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you
enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces
stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner
Some options may include:
- Taking a walk at night and stargazing.
- Listening to soothing music.
- Getting a massage.
- Reading a book.
- 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.
Take control of the holidays
Don't let the holidays become something you dread. Instead, take
steps to prevent the stress and depression that can descend during the
holidays. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial
pressures or personal demands, so you can combat them before they lead
to a meltdown. With a little planning and some positive thinking, you
can find peace and joy during the holidays.