Managing Stress Through the Holidays


The holiday season is a time often filled with joy, togetherness, and celebration. However, amidst the festivities, this time of year can exacerbate existing mental health challenges–leaving many people overwhelmed and exhausted. During the holidays, it is common for individuals to experience increased anxiety relating to stressors such as social obligations, financial strain, changes in typical routines, and increased expectations. For some, the holiday season can also intensify feelings of isolation and loneliness. At The Collective, we believe it is important to explore a cope ahead plan for specific strategies to increase mood, connection, and overall wellness during the holiday season.

Prioritize Self Care: Attuning to your body through physical and emotional self care is crucial. Incorporate mindfulness practices such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing, or an activity to help calm the mind and alleviate stress. Mindfulness activities are helpful in grounding your body when approaching stressful situations, coping with anxiety, and increasing positive mood. Remember, it’s important to replenish your wellness resources before and after holiday social events. 

Establish and Maintain Boundaries: Explore and identify boundaries relating to holiday expectations, familial relationships, and conversation topics. Prepare to redirect uncomfortable or triggering conversations. Set limits for length of time spent at holiday functions that consider your window of tolerance for distress. Remind yourself you are allowed to set boundaries and your boundaries should be respected.

Managing Feelings of Loneliness: Holiday seasons may carry the weight of loss, grief, and loneliness. Allow yourself to feel the authentic emotions that come up and take time to reflect. Journaling or calling a trusted person may be helpful in processing these emotions. Listen to and prioritize your needs. 

Seek Support: Stay in touch with a trusted family member, friend, or therapist who can provide a safe space to speak about what you are experiencing. A safe and trusted person will be supportive, understanding, non-judgemental, and validating. Staying connected with someone you can share your feelings with can provide a sense of relief and reduce loneliness. 

Plan and Organize: Effective planning and organization could significantly reduce stress levels. Consider prioritizing social events and reducing the pressure to attend all holiday parties. Identify the most important or meaningful events for you and politely decline other invitations if they seem too overwhelming. Create a cope ahead plan prior to the holiday season and identify specific strategies for support if things become too difficult.

As the holiday season approaches, it is essential to remain vigilant and recognize the potential impact on mental health. “Preparing ahead of time is a great strategy to manage the holiday stressors and reduce risk for negative mood, anxiety, and other mental health symptoms” says Dr. Nizami, Staff Psychologist at The Mental Health Collective. “Remember, your wellness is a priority and an integral factor to more positive holiday experiences. When we prepare for potential holiday distress, set boundaries that honor our limits, and prioritize our wellbeing, we give ourselves the best chance to have a fun, refreshing, and connecting holiday.”

A Mental Health Plan For Family Gatherings


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