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Managing Holiday Stress

Article submitted by Behavioral Health Provider, Nancy B. Pieper, LCSW, LCAC, RYT200

December, a month full of emotional overload for kids and adults alike. The stakes are quite high. Will I get enough for others? Look good enough in the Christmas photo cards and seasonal social media posts? Do I have the perfect look to my living space? The perfect magazine-worthy food? Let’s just say, yes, it’s a time of year heavily weighted with expectations that can introduce stress levels unlike other times of the year coupled with the unpredictable variables such as viral illness and challenging weather conditions.

So how do we cope with this both good and potentially not so good time of year? Here are a few ideas:

Create balance with boundaries: The holiday season is a tempting time to overcommit to activities above and beyond our normal time commitments. Understanding the need for balance between scheduled activities and down time for re-fueling is a great way to cope ahead. This may mean you may have to make a conscious decision to let go of attending every holiday gathering this year. Saying no to some invitations is okay and an important part of creating balance between effort and ease to re-fuel as needed.

Lower your expectations: We all tend to place undue pressure on ourselves and others during the holidays because we get bombarded with social and cultural messages about the way things “should be.” Many of these messages are unrealistic so we have an opportunity to right-size our expectations and give ourselves and others a break. Taking a break from social media might be one way of reducing exposure to stimulus that tends to assert these expectations and comparisons. Maybe consider taking that social media app off your easily accessible device for the month. Although this may sound pretty radical, it might help create some much-needed space between self and social expectations.

Maintain a routine: This sounds like common sense, but it’s easy to get off our sleep and dietary routines during the holiday season. To the extent to which we can, it’s important to maintain as much of our normal routines as possible. This is particularly important for children as they especially thrive on predictability and knowing what’s next.

Take a fresh air break: Even in winter, getting outside for a fresh air break can be a great way to lift mood and take time out to remind ourselves that nature is still happening all around us even when we are feeling more shut in and distanced from it in the colder winter months.

These are just a few simple tips for dealing with holiday seasonal stress. It’s also important to remember that for some, dealing with loss, loneliness or depression can be a reality. If holiday stressors seem to supersede one’s ability to cope, speak to your health care provider. If you, or someone you know needs immediate help, call or text 988 or chat to speak with someone at the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.