The holiday season can elicit an array of emotions. Specifically, while this time of year may bring about feelings of joy and happiness, the holidays are a time of year that may also lead to increased stressors including, but not limited to financial burdens, increased responsibilities, and the memory of loved ones who have passed. In addition to the usual stressors of the holiday season, this year presents with several unique challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as attempting to stay safe and healthy may impact typical holiday traditions and plans. Due to these challenges, the following methods of been suggested to help decrease and prevent holiday stress.
Methods of preventing Holiday Stress:
Find ways to connect with loved ones and your community: Finding ways to connect with others can be helpful, especially when experiencing feelings of isolation. While many people may be unable to physically spend time with loved ones this holiday season, we can continue to connect through phone calls and video meetings. In addition to finding new ways to connect with loved ones, connect with your community by attending virtual events! Be on the lookout for virtual broadcasts of your favorite holiday events and shows!
Set realistic expectations: Holiday celebrations may look different this year and attempting to create a picture-perfect celebration may be associated with even greater obstacles than usual. Rather than attempting to achieve all of your holiday aspirations, keep an open mind and set realistic expectations for your holiday celebration. Continuing to remember what is truly important and keeping things in perspective may be helpful when setting realistic expectations! Additionally, focusing on positive aspects of the moment, rather than limitations may be helpful!
Helpful Tip: Mindfulness is a helpful method of remaining in the present moment and can be helpful in acknowledging positive experiences as they occur. Mindfulness walks, reflections, and breathing have been suggested as helpful methods of experiencing the joy of the holidays!
Acknowledge your feelings: While it may be helpful to focus on positive aspects of your day, it is also important to acknowledge your emotions. As previously noted, this year has presented many obstacles and hardships. As such, allow yourself the time to grieve and acknowledge difficult emotions (whether you are grieving the loss of a loved one or down about being unable to celebrate your usual holiday traditions).
Stay on budget & plan accordingly: Lists can be a helpful method of remaining organized and on budget! Create lists prior to shopping as a method of staying on task and on budget!
Continue to engage in healthy practices & engage in self-care activities: The holiday season can be time consuming. During this holiday season it is important to continue to make time for yourself and continue to engage in self-care practices!
Virtual events are time consuming! It is ok to say no: Virtual events continue to take time and can become burdensome. It is ok if you are unable to attend every event (virtual and in-person) that you are invited to!
Seek support when needed! Attempting to cope with the stressors of the holiday season and COVID-19 can feel overwhelming. As such, it may be helpful to seek support from loved ones. In addition to seeking comfort from loved ones, seek support from mental health professionals if needed and encourage loved ones to seek mental health assistance when needed.
American Psychological Association. (2016, November 1). Making the most of the holiday season. https://www.apa.org/topics/holiday-season-stress
American Psychological Association. (2017, November 15). Managing expectations. https://www.apa.org/topics/stress-managing-expectations
Mayo Clinic. (2020, December 11). Stress, depression, and the holidays: Tips for coping. Healthy Lifestyle Stress Management. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20047544
Shattell, M., & Johnson, A. (2017). Three simple mindfulness practices to manage holiday stress. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services, 55(12), 2-4. https://doi.org/10.3928/02793695-20171117-01