The holidays aren’t always “merry and bright.” For some people, they are actually much more stressful than enjoyable. According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, 38% of people say their stress levels increase during the holidays. Factor in seasonal depression, and many people find themselves experiencing low feelings this time of year.
But, there is good news! Whether you’re dealing with pandemic anxiety, holiday stress, or seasonal depression, there are some things you can do to cope with and ease these feelings.
Here are 12 tips – to help those who are struggling this season – for managing anxiety during the holidays.
Don’t Fall Into the Happiness Trap
One of the most common causes of holiday stress is the pressure to feel happy. Unfortunately, this can lead to higher expectations, and greater disappointment when things don’t go the way you planned.
Managing your expectations can help to avoid this vicious cycle. Accept that everything won’t be perfect, and give yourself credit for doing the best you can. Take the pressure off yourself – it’s okay to not always feel happy during the holidays! Let yourself feel your feelings; they are valid and deserve to be honored.
Focus on What Makes You Happy
On the flip side, there are many things to love about the holiday season. Focusing on these enjoyable moments can help you maintain a positive and balanced mindset.
Love your annual neighborhood caroling event or cookie baking with your kids? Then be sure to schedule these activities and stick to them! While the holiday season is branded to be a selfless and giving time of year, it’s still important to put your happiness as a high priority.
Identify Your Stressors
We all have things that we dread about the holidays. While some of these are unavoidable, others can be mitigated. Identifying these stressors now can help you take proactive steps to control the effect they have on you.
For example, if you’re anxious that your great-uncle Fred will try to engage in a political debate with you at the dinner table, try to avoid sitting next to him or practice some ways you can defuse the conversation.
Perfection is Overrated
From the pressure of buying presents everyone will love to the stress of preparing a delicious Christmas dinner, there is a lot of anxiety that comes with achieving perfection during the holidays. Chasing perfection adds a lot of unnecessary tension and takes away your ability to enjoy this time with family and loved ones.
The stress of trying to make sure every detail goes according to plan can actually result in a negative holiday experience. It’s okay if your turkey dinner is slightly dry or if your gifts aren’t perfect. Try not to force a rigid plan and learn to accept imperfections – they will make for a funny story to retell with family and pass on for years to come!
Try to remind yourself that the holidays are about spending time with those who love you and all the memories you create together. Imperfect moments are often the most memorable and cherished ones.
Just Say No
A lot of holiday stress comes from being overwhelmed by events and activities from Christmas shopping to New Year's Eve parties. Overdoing it is exhausting and often results in you being too stressed to enjoy yourself. Pick a few must-do activities and feel free to say “no” to the rest.
Have a dreaded activity you participate in every year? Permit yourself to bow out! If you spread yourself too thin, you won’t be able to fully enjoy this time off to relax and be with loved ones.
Put Your Health and Wellness First
Unfortunately, when the holiday hustle and bustle sets in, we often feel like we barely have time for the things we need to be happy and calm. As a result, many people end up skipping their essential self-care time.
To safeguard both your mental and physical health, commit to making self-care a priority. Adequate sleep, exercise, eating well, and other healthy behaviors should always come first, especially if they contribute to your overall physical and mental well-being.
There’s no doubt that alcohol is always around – and even socially encouraged – during the holidays. Despite that some associate a glass of wine with relaxing, alcohol can actually increase symptoms of anxiety. There’s nothing wrong with a holiday cocktail or two, but avoid overindulging to keep your stress in check.
Plan and Prepare
While you can’t plan for everything during the holidays, being proactive can help you minimize last-minute complications and interruptions.
For example, if you’re traveling to visit loved ones by car, scheduling your trip at non-peak times can help you avoid traffic (and stress). That said, keep in mind that delays are to be expected at this time of year, and getting there safely is more important than getting there on time.
Lean on Your Support System
Trusted family members and friends can be lifelines during the holidays. When you start to feel anxiety creeping in, reach out to talk with someone who can help keep you calm. Whether you meet up in person or talk on the phone, this can also help keep you from feeling isolated and helpless.
Use Relaxation Strategies
Deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can calm a racing mind and help you feel better. Don’t have a go-to exercise? This four-minute grounding exercise is one of our favorites for supporting emotional processing and centering ourselves.
Positive affirmations are also extremely valuable and can be practiced anywhere! If you find yourself getting tense, take a moment to calm down and make these exercises a part of your daily routine.
It's easy to get caught up in our own troubles and problems. One way to feel good and connect with the spirit of the season is to spend time giving to someone else.
There are many opportunities to volunteer and give back during the holidays, from soup kitchens to toy drives and more! Get involved and do something meaningful. This is sure to bring you joy.
No one likes dealing with crowds or waiting in long lines. However, a negative attitude can make these experiences even more stressful. Instead of giving in to your irritation, take the opportunity to spread good cheer instead by wishing someone a happy holiday or striking up a conversation while you wait. You’ll be surprised at how easily your mood turns around when you bring a smile to someone else.
Give the Gift of happii
Whether you’re struggling with holiday anxiety or you have a loved one who is, these 11 tips can help! At happii, we’re committed to shining the light on the importance of mental health awareness during the holidays and all year long. Our anxiety gifts and other items that help with anxiety are designed to make people feel better through positive self-talk and healthy mental habits.
Our mental health sweatshirts, tee-shirts, hoodies, and tank tops, spread messages of self-love and positivity. To join us in easing holiday anxiety and spreading awareness about mental health, explore our collection of meaningful holiday gifts today.