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How to manage holiday season anxiety and stress

Mental health · Dec 13, 2021

The holidays can be stressful. There is a lot of pressure to feel festive and happy, but some of us may not feel this way for all sorts of reasons. For some, financial stress and family commitments, among other things, can create feelings of anxiety. For others, feelings of loneliness may be exacerbated, or positive traditions or people to connect with are not there. This time of year bombards us with often unrealistic images of the “perfect” holiday season through advertising, movies and television, which can make stress or anxiety worse.

We experience stress in our bodies whether we choose and control the activity that causes it or not. For example, you may feel stressed because your holidays don’t look the same this year as they may have in the past. Maybe your reality does not match your hopes and expectations, or what you feel like you ‘“should” be experiencing. These feelings can create the same type of stress response as when we are in danger: the effects of the hormone cortisol are the same, and the damaging impact of the chemical does not discriminate.

Simply put, stress is stress. The good news is there are things you can do to help manage yours during the holiday season.

How to take care of yourself and find meaning during the holiday season

If you are feeling overwhelmed, it may help to focus on what is in your control. Try to focus on ways to find meaning during the holiday season by considering:

  • What can you reflect on and feel grateful for right now?

  • Who can you reach out to and connect with?

  • What can you do to help someone else? Whether it’s a phone call or dropping off cookies, little gestures can go a long way.

An effective antidote to stress is the practice of scheduling strategic self-care. Just like depositing money into a savings account for a rainy day, it’s very beneficial to have those banked resources before we enter the stressful situations of the holidays.

Some things you can do include:

  • Make time for yourself. Buffer time into your holiday plans to ensure you have space to relax and unwind. Even 10 minutes here and there can help.

  • Practice self-compassion. Ease up on your self-expectations and be kind to yourself.

  • Practice good sleep hygiene. Sticking to a consistent sleep schedule and getting 7-9 hours of sleep a night is ideal.

  • Spend time outside. Getting outdoors, even in colder weather, is good for our mental health.1

  • Get the support you need. If you feel like you may benefit from speaking with someone, the mental health team at TELUS Health Care Centres can help you find the support you need, either virtually or in person.

The holiday season looks different for everyone. By focusing on what is within your control and practicing strategic self-care, you may be able to find ways to make this time of year a little less stressful.


References

1. Bratman, G. N., Daily, G. C., Levy, B. J., & Gross, J. J. (2015, March 3). The benefits of nature experience: Improved affect and cognition. Landscape and Urban Planning. Retrieved December 9, 2021, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0169204615000286.

Authored by:
Richelle Mottosky
Registered Psychologist at TELUS Health Care Centres

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