In Anxiety, Depression, Self-Care

The Holiday Season Can Be Very Stressful

For many people, the holiday season is a time filled with anxiety and tension. The numerous parties and social commitments can be energy-zapping. For others, it is a reminder of strained family connections, and still, it is a lonely time for others.

Whether you have subtle anxiety or can barely get through the holidays, it is essential to be proactive and take the necessary steps to reduce stress during the holidays. In fact, managing stress is quite necessary to truly enjoy this time of year.

Life Coaching & Therapy May Be Helpful

We understand that this can be a difficult time. As such, our therapists and life coaches have offered effective recommendations and practical actions you can take this season. If you or someone that you know is interested in working with a therapist, we are here to help address your specific needs in detail.

To get started on the task yourself, you may wish to try one or all of these eight techniques designed to guide you through those emotional lows you may experience during the holiday season.

woman practiving mindfulness to relieve anxiety over holiday worry

1. Develop Healthy Habits You Can Stick To

The holidays are a time when most of us overindulge. While it can feel acceptable, and even encouraged, to eat and drink to excess in the spirit of festivity, allowing yourself to do so often results in increased stress and reduced energy.

Focus on your healthy habits and make your health a priority. For instance, don’t skip your run, choose to have one drink instead of two, and focus on taking care of your general health. Think: moderation rather than indulgence.

Here is a list of ways that will help you get through the temptation to overindulge while still enjoying this time of year.

  • Eat a healthy meal before heading out to a get-together
  • Maintain your exercise schedule
  • Prioritize your sleep
  • Take time to relax and meditate

friends and family reconnecting to stop feeling so lonely and isolated

2. Connect With Your Friends and Family

The holidays are a time when a lot of people can feel lonely, depressed and disconnected. This is a great time to reach out and check in with your family and friends.

If you are feeling disconnected or lonely, reconnecting can really help. Some great ideas to start connecting include:

  • Organize morning walks with friends
  • Drop off a dessert to an elderly relative
  • Plan a virtual coffee break with a co-worker
  • Arrange a simple phone call or video chat with a friend or relative to catch up

Staying connected with loved ones does not have to entail tremendous effort or stressful planning. However, working in a little bit of time to catch up with the people in your life, even if it is only for an hour or so, will make a substantial difference in how you feel afterwards. Studies show that social support helps to reduces stress-induced cortisol levels and increase our sense of well-being.

woman engaging in a virtual therapy session

3. Start Working With a Therapist

If the holidays are a difficult time for you, you may benefit from working with a therapist during and after this time of year. Being proactive now in researching and securing a therapist will prove especially effective in getting you through any melancholy you experience as a result of the holidays. That is, you will find it most helpful to ease your way into a relationship with your therapist ahead of time so that you can both focus on what is at the root of your inner conflict when it matters most rather than working on establishing a proper “fit” between the two of you.

For example, you can book a first session to test the water and ask questions that you might have about how a therapist could benefit you. Learning about their practice as well as their approach can help you make an educated decision.

Starting before the holidays is a great time to prepare for what is coming up. If the absence of family or strained relationships makes the holidays unenjoyable, working with a therapist ahead of time will offer you many invaluable tools to help you cope.

sunset over toronto early in afternoon leading people to seasonal affective disorder

4. Take Seasonal Affective Disorder Seriously

There is a biological deficiency that we go through when we lose sunlight in the winter months. At least a quarter of Canadians will be affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The lack of light may have many outcomes, including feelings of lethargy and depression.

Working with a nutritionist can help to boost your energy levels. Striking a proper balance between eating nutritious meals and enjoying some holiday treats here and there, is a great way to start feeling better. Speaking to your doctor about taking a vitamin D supplement is a great way to begin to address mood changes as well.

Light therapy is another excellent way to expose yourself to increased sunlight often missing during the winter months in our northern hemisphere. SAD lights are easily accessible through many large retailers and there is some research that shows they may be helpful.

woman taking time to do less and enjoy time with her daughter

5. Make a Holiday To-Do List

Focus on the fun aspects of the holidays. Sit down and reflect on what you appreciate about the holidays. Make a list of things you would like to do such as baking, listening to Christmas music, ice skating or taking in some holiday film classics.

Make plans to do these activities, check in with friends to see if you can enjoy these activities with them and spend time making a plan to see things through. Having exciting activities to look forward to can reduce the anxiety that the holidays can cause.

Encouraging friends and family to get out and have fun can also help others during the holidays. Sometimes we have loved ones who suffer from loneliness in silence so we are completely oblivious to their suffering. Reaching out to connect can support our loved ones too.

couple having a leisure trip to a holiday market

6. Don’t Over Commit and Stay Organized

We can all get overwhelmed and experience great stress from the flurry of expectations that the holidays can bring. From work get-togethers to our neighbor’s holiday party, there is a lot going on. If you have kids, their many extra curricular activities and high energy can become exhausting.

Try to focus on only having a few things to do and say no to everything else. Spend time creating and adhering to a daily routine. Set limits on your expectations of yourself and the expectations of others on you. It is OK to set boundaries around how much time you are willing to give.

Plan ahead to make sure you know what you are doing and when. The activities you have chosen to engage in make them special and setting boundaries will allow you to genuinely appreciate what each one has to offer.

Staying organized is a good way to reduce the anxiety from an activity. Make lists, plan and write events in your calendar early so that you are not disappointed. Delegate where possible and try to stay on top of your commitments.

woman sites near a fire with a coffee enjoying herself

7. Be Kind to Yourself

There is something about the end of the year that feels especially tiring. Accepting numerous invitations to parties, get-togethers and other events, is enough to zap any remaining energy out of a person.

Make sure that you offer yourself grace and kindness, knowing that this is a hectic time of year. If you need more rest in the evenings, do it. Have a bath, slow down, turn off your phone.

You can be honest with friends and family about how you feel. Let people know that you are tired and may not be able to see everyone or attend everything you are invited to.

a box of food before packaging for a food drive

8. Give Back to Your Community

The holiday season is really a time for gratitude and giving back to one’s community. It feels like we do that less and less. With the stress of everyday life, it’s not a surprise, but giving instead of receiving has huge emotional benefits.

There are many ways you can help, either donating financially or with your time:

  • Participating in a food drive or organizing a food drive
  • Donating to the Food Bank
  • Donating toys to organizations that distribute to children in need
  • Donating to organizations that help low-income families

Our brain’s pleasure circuits are connected with the act of giving, releasing endorphins and oxytocin. These chemicals act as stimulants for feelings of happiness, tranquility and inner peace. You may find giving back to your community a good way to make your holidays more enjoyable.

It’s Okay to Be Tired

Remember, it’s okay to be tired and sad and to even dislike the holiday season. Take each day as it comes and know that your days do not have to be perfect. Try to accept the happenings of your day-to-day during the holidays as they are. Perhaps by doing so, you may begin to feel authentically content and appreciative of what this time of year has to bring.

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