How to Reduce Holiday Stress and Protect Your Mental Health

HHoliday tradition says it’s better not to pout, better not cry. But that’s all some of us want to do during the holiday season, when the pressure to be festive is so intense, anyone who doesn’t comply risks being declared grumpy or Scrooge.

There are many reasons why one might not like vacations, including strained family relationships, chaotic travel logistics, and the pressure to buy lots of gifts (in this economy). All are valid, say mental health experts.

“Just like some people like chocolate and some don’t, some people don’t like things associated with the holidays,” says Florida-based psychiatrist Dr. Jessica Beachkofsky. t enjoy. They might not like having to go outside when it’s cold outside. Some people don’t like the noise – or music – on holidays and think it’s loud or obnoxious.

If this sounds familiar, it’s important to focus on the things that restore you. This includes stuff all year round…get enough sleep and exercise, and go easy on alcohol– as well as activities that truly uplift you. It’s time to get a massage, go to the movies and surround yourself with your favorite things.

If you’re dreading decorating hallways, here are five ways to better cope this holiday season.


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Maybe you don’t want to have a silent night and then another and another. There is so much emphasis on togetherness during the holidays that those without busy schedules might feel isolated and sad. Be open about it. “Don’t be afraid to tell someone, ‘I’m alone. What are your plans? I don’t have one yet,” says Dr. Sue Varma, a psychiatrist in New York. Many people will respond by extending an invitation; maybe the only reason they hadn’t yet was because they didn’t know you’d be available or interested.

You can also search for new friends and things to do through platforms such as To meet and The next door, recommends Varma. Another way to surround yourself with people is to volunteer, even if it’s not something you plan to do the rest of the year. Sign up to visit residents at a local nursing home, bake cookies for first responders, adopt a kitten, or serve food at a homeless shelter. You will have the opportunity to socialize and the person you are helping will be grateful to the company – a win-win from every angle.

Set limits.

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Many people struggle with holidays due to strained family relationships. Setting boundaries is key, says Varma: Tell your mom you’ll be joining her for Thanksgiving, but only one-on-one and not with her new husband who you don’t get along with. Or, if you don’t have the ability to deal with your uncle’s problems Political Viewslet your family know you’ll be seeing him in a large group (not sitting right next to you at dinner).

Have a few lines ready to close any unwanted conversations. If someone brings up politics and you don’t want to get involved, say, “I’m not here to talk about it, but I’d like to talk about that delicious food or the amazing athletes playing football today.” suggests Marhya Kelsch. , a psychotherapist in California.

If you’re nervous, your guests will bring up a sticky personal issue, deal with it straight away, immediately after you arrive. You might say, “Todd and I broke up. It was really hard. I would appreciate if we couldn’t talk about it, because I really want to enjoy being here with all of you,” suggests Beachkofsky. “It sounds scary, but if you say it once, and if these people are even a little bit reasonable, they won’t bring up the thing you’re asking them not to talk about.”

Let yourself feel sad.

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Every year, Beachkofsky hears from people who overwhelmed with grief the idea of ​​spending the holidays without someone who is no longer there. His best advice? “You have to feel the sensations,” she says. “If you’re sad and everyone else is happy, you’re entitled to that feeling.” One way to cope, says Beachkofsky, is to let a supportive friend or family member know that you’re struggling. Ask if you can call them whenever you need an ear. Then you’ll know you have someone to turn to who won’t just tell you to be happy and have another cookie.

It can also be helpful to find ways to honor the person or people you are mourning. Did you share a particular tradition, like always going to see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra together or making a popcorn garland for the tree? “Find a way to fit that into the season,” says Steffani Wooley, a Texas-based licensed professional counselor. Or make a special ornament or photo collage that reminds you of your loved one. “You might even set a place at the table to remember them,” she says.

Be flexible with travel.

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Travel can be a logistical nightmare during the busiest time of year. If you don’t want to shell out money for a prime-time plane ticket, or are dreading crowds and long delays, offer a compromise to your distant loved ones. “Just say, ‘We’re not celebrating Christmas on December 25, we’re going to do it on February 1,'” Varma suggests. Then you can eliminate a major source of stress and have something to look forward to throughout the holiday season.

Be discreet with gifts.

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In progress inflation always make prices for almost everything peak. If exorbitant costs are stressing you out, release the pressure. First, tell your family members that you need to be more discreet about gifts this year, advises Varma. Those with large families can draw names and buy for just one person or agree that only children will receive gifts.

And change your perspective on what makes a good gift. As Varma points out, people love getting homemade treats or other inexpensive but thoughtful offerings — “something as simple as homemade pesto,” she says. If you’re treating someone who appreciates time with you, book a yoga class or plan to cook a special meal together. “There are so many ways to be creative that don’t involve a lot of money,” she says.

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