Holiday stress is like “stress on steroids.” Leading up to and throughout the holidays, one’s stress tends to amplify due to extreme planning, coordinating family gatherings, fulfilling expectations, excessive commitments, financial pressures and travel anxiety. These stressors can be overwhelming and unbearable and potentially lead into seasonal affective disorder, commonly known as seasonal depression.
Am I experiencing holiday depression?
This type of depression only occurs during the holidays and most refer to it as, “my holiday blues.”
The Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons for most people are the time of year people generally look forward to things like decorating, planning social gatherings, work parties, putting thought into gift giving, spiritual reflections, and being among family and friends. Unfortunately, when experiencing holiday blues, a person becomes overwhelmed with feelings of increased anxiety, sadness and the fear of being alone, and they dip into negative self-reflections.
Developing an awareness early in the holiday season would be a great intervention to the following root causes of holiday sadness which include: increased stress, setting up unrealistic expectations, barriers to being with family and friends, fatigue, insomnia, inability to balance all of the expectations, headaches, and emotional eating or drinking, among other sources. In some cases, a person may experience post-holiday sadness after New Year’s Day. This can result from built-up expectations and disappointments from the recent holidays.
How can I manage holiday expectations?
1. Set realistic expectations and goals. It is understandable to strive for perfection throughout the holidays, but it is not always attainable. Create a plan that will not create unreasonable stress.
2. Create a budget. Finances are a common stressor, especially within the holiday season. Make a budget and stick to it! Try setting a certain amount of money to spend on each individual you are giving gifts to; this will create an organized plan when shopping and hold you accountable.
3. Create a plan for shopping and find the best time to shop. If shopping the deals on Black Friday is not overwhelming, then do so! If not, purchase gifts little by little months prior to the holiday season. The gifts will accumulate, and you can cross them off of your list.
How can I cope with the stress of the season?
1. Plan in advance. By planning in advance, the stress of procrastination and surprises can be eliminated. You can plan ahead of time by booking a flight months before the holiday season and planning a day to shop and wrap gifts.
2. Efficient communication. Making sure you are effectively communicating with family and friends will aid in the planning process. If you communicate plans ahead of time, you can avoid the stress of unorganized plans.
3. Continue healthy habits and your daily routine. The holidays can be stressful, sometimes leading to little sleep, irregular meals and a lack of exercise. Continue your normal activities throughout the holidays. Planning in advance and efficient communication will ensure you still have time to partake in the tasks of your normal schedule!
How can I incorporate healthy self-care habits?
The holiday season is a time when we truly think about others in our life, then comes the hustle and bustle of holiday planning. Being mindful of how important setting aside time for your own personal self-care can make a huge difference in your attitude and generate more positive energy. Create your own personal list of self-care awareness activities you can do for yourself or with a loved one. Here are a few suggestions:
• The daily vitamin — Think of one thing you are thankful for and be sure to share it with someone you love. Ask them to share their attitude of gratitude with you too!
• Being present is the ultimate gift — In the physical moment (make tea, coffee or cocoa) sit back and relax while enjoying something mindful. Focus on the sounds of nature and the amazing scenery attached to it.
• Stress management spa session with yourself — Take time relaxing in a bath, painting your nails or taking care of your skin, and don’t forget the mood music!
Tricia Orscheln, M.Ed., LPC, NCC, CCATP, is a licensed professional counselor. She is the founder and owner of Tree of Hope and Wellness Counseling Center. Coming soon in 2022, Tricia will be opening the Rejuvenation Stations at the Branch offering a unique self-care experience!