5 Tips To Help You Manage Your Stress and Your Mood During The Holidays

Hi all,

December. What may be considered to be one of the happiest months of the year, can also be  one of the most stressful. Stress occurs when we feel unable to manage and cope with current demands and situations that we are in. And with the holidays, come extra demands, whether it be baking cookies, attending holiday parties, spending time with family members you don’t get along with, end of the year work deadlines, managing large crowds, and lots of shopping and bills. Our daily routines are disrupted, as we are not getting to our morning exercise class from being tired from last night’s holiday party, not getting our normal amount of sleep, and are indulging in more desserts and alcohol than healthy food. One can then easily see why stress, depression, and anxiety tends to be at its peak during the holidays.

Below we are going to dive into evidence-based strategies that may help you prevent and manage your stress and mood level during the holidays.

1.      Be aware of your body, feelings, and stress level.  

It’ll be hard to manage your stress and mood, if you let your mood and stress go unchecked throughout the day. Remember, it’s totally normal to experience a range of emotions so don’t feel bad for feeling sad, stressed, angry, or anxious! Throughout the day, try checking in with yourself and asking yourself, how am I feeling? Also, scan your body, am I tense anywhere (our bodies tense up when we’re stressed)? Once you begin becoming more aware of your body and your feelings, you will then be able to do something about them when you begin feeling uncomfortable.

·         Find healthy ways to express your emotions and let out your stress.

You’re more likely to have your feelings and stress come out in unhealthy ways if you decide to just repress them whether that be through excessive drinking or eating, lashing out, withdrawing, crying, or procrastination. Instead find healthy ways to release it, here are some examples that will also boost your mood:

·         Take a break from work.

·         Go for a walk.

·         Listen to music.

·         Read a book.

·         Stretch your body.

·         Get a Massage.

·         Work out.

·         Hang out with a friend.

·         Volunteer at a shelter.

·         Practicing belly breathing (rest one hand on your stomach and one on your chest, practice having only your stomach hand rise when you inhale for 3-4 seconds and fall when you exhale for 3-4 seconds, while your chest hand stays still).

2.      Be Mindful of Your Thoughts.

If you recall from previous posts, thoughts affect our emotions and behaviors. Below you will find tips to help your thoughts stay in check during your day to day and stressful situations:

·         Practice Paying Attention to Unhelpful Thoughts.

Particularly ones that catastrophize the future or begin with, “I should have,” or “It could have been” because statements like these prevent us from feeling better because they’re focused on the past or how you think things will go wrong in the future. Instead ask yourself, “how can I change my attitude or way I look at the situation to make it better?”

·         Practice Acceptance and Being Flexible.

Holidays are known for traditions. When we know what to expect, we tend to feel secure and safe. So when something is changed, it is normal to feel upset about it. However, the only constant in life is change, so that means traditions are bound to be modified when new family members are added to the family. So if family traditions are changing, be aware of your thoughts and feelings about them. Once we’re aware of them, we can come up with new ways of viewing the situation that will allow us to create new and hopefully fond memories.

For example: Say, your sister-in-law decided to host Christmas brunch this year when it has always been hosted by your mother. You find yourself becoming upset and annoyed because you’re thinking:

“Christmas is not going to be the same this year because she decided to host it.”

Instead, you could try thinking something more helpful and try to identify the silver lining in the situation:

“Christmas will be different this year (acknowledge feelings), but that’s okay all of my family will be there and my sister-in-law does have a bigger house to entertain all of us in (identify silver lining).”

·         Don’t Expect People To Change.

Expecting people to change will only lead to more stress. But changing the way you react to the scenario can change. So If you’re at a lunch with a colleague or family member you don’t get along with and you find yourself getting upset by a comment he’s making, try REDIRECTING the conversation or getting up and speaking with someone else.

3.      Be Realistic With Your Time Management and Practice Saying No.

When we’re overscheduled, we tend to feel stressed. So is there anything you can cut from your schedule? Can you delegate one of the tasks on your load to someone else? Do you really have to go to the store to buy that other gift? Instead, try prioritizing your time for what absolutely has to get done today. Remember there will always be more things to do everyday, but really only a few that have to get done today. Also, practice saying no to others. If you have a full plate, adding something extra will only add more stress. If saying "no" is hard for you make sure to check out this previous post where I discuss how to be assertiv.

4.      Stick to a budget. 

If finances are stressing you out. Stick to a budget. Partaking in a secret Santa or white elephant instead of buying everyone a gift will be much friendlier on your wallet. If it’s too late to suggest that, suggest it to your family for next year. 

5.      Sleep.

Getting as close to 7-8 hours of sleep is crucial to helping you manage your mood and stress level. Read here for more sleep tips.

As always, thank you for reading!

Dr. C

P.S. You can read more about Anxiety HERE and Depression HERE.

Disclaimer: Information being provided on this page is general in nature and is not intended to replace or serve as therapy. Should you be experiencing emotional distress or difficulties at school, work, or with relationships, it is encouraged that you contact your insurance health provider to locate a mental health professional in your area. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing thoughts of harming yourself or others at your nearest emergency room.