Although the holidays can bring lots of fun, festivity, and warmth to our lives, things are not always merry and bright this time of year. For many people, the stress of the holidays can be too much to handle on their own.
If what is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year is causing more stress than joy, it can help to know how you can manage holiday stress and get the most out of your holiday experience.
Why Do the Holidays Cause Stress and Anxiety
From Thanksgiving to Hannukah to Christmas, this time of year brings many ways to celebrate and spread joy with your loved ones. Of course, the holidays, despite their festive spirit, can be a surprisingly stressful time for many people.
There are many reasons why the holidays are stressful, including:
- Financial pressures: The holidays often mean increased spending on gifts, decorations, travel, and food, putting a strain on budgets. This is especially true for those who are already struggling financially.
- Time constraints: With the holidays, many people find themselves facing longer to-do lists, including shopping, cooking, cleaning, decorating, and attending social events. This, combined with the traveling and family expectations of this time of year, these time constraints can take a serious toll.
- Emotional expectations: The holidays can often bring a need for perfectionism and emotional presence, which can be difficult for those who are struggling with other issues, whether this be anxiety, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or other emotional difficulties.
With so many ways to experience stress during the holiday season, it can feel impossible to handle all of these seasonal expectations on our own. This can lead to serious stress and anxiety, which can be problematic if not handled properly.
The Unhealthy Ways We Deal With Stress
When faced with stressful situations, such as the holidays, our bodies are sent into fight-or-flight mode. This is when the brain starts releasing hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which send the body into a hyper-aware and high-stress state of being.
While this response is essential for survival in the short term, chronic stress can wreak havoc on our physical and mental health. Unfortunately, many of us turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms in an attempt to manage this stress, creating a cycle of negativity and further exacerbating the problem.
Some of the most common unhealthy coping mechanisms people may turn to include:
- Substance Use: Alcohol, illicit drugs, prescription medications, and even over-the-counter drugs like sleeping pills can all be used to numb stress temporarily. However, repeated use over time can also lead to addiction, dependence, and dangerous side effects.
- Unhealthy Eating: This can include binge eating, which is when someone eats excessive amounts of usually unhealthy foods for comfort, which can lead to weight gain and other health problems, as well as undereating where they are not getting the sustenance they need to function properly.
- Isolation: Many people who are struggling with stress may withdraw from their friends and family, as well as ignore their responsibilities as a means of coping; of course, this only makes their problems harder to solve in the future.
- Negative Self-Talk: When we are stressed out, it is easy to blame and talk down to ourselves, as well as start catastrophizing the situation and making our problems seem way worse than they truly are.
These are just some of the many unhealthy ways we deal with stress, each of which often makes our situations far worse than they were originally. If you find yourself relying on these coping mechanisms, it is important to seek healthier alternatives.
7 Tips for Holiday Stress Management
Now that you understand just how stressful the holidays can be, you may be wondering what you can do to ease the burdens that come with this time of year. Fortunately, there are many ways you can manage your holiday stress.
Here are our top 7 tips for holiday stress management:
- Set realistic expectations: It is important to make sure you are not trying to take on more than you can handle. Instead, focus on doing what is important to you during the holidays and let go of the rest.
- Practice open communication: It is also important to talk about your budget and expectations with your loved ones and be honest about what you can and cannot do this holiday season.
- Delegate and ask for help: While it can be tempting to be a holiday hero, don’t try to do everything yourself. Asking friends and family for help with tasks such as cooking, cleaning, and childcare can significantly ease your stress during this time.
- Set boundaries: It’s okay to say no to invitations or requests that will add to your stress. Setting boundaries can help you avoid taking on too much and leave time to focus on what is important to you during the holidays.
- Take care of yourself: Although the holidays can demand a lot of your time, it is important to make sure you are still getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, and exercising regularly.
- Practice stress-reduction techniques: Taking time to practice meditation, yoga, and deep breathing can all help to reduce stress and improve your mood, allowing you to better handle the holidays.
- Seek professional help if needed: If you are feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope with holiday stress, don’t hesitate to seek professional help from a therapist or counselor.
This time of year can feel overwhelming and burdensome with the expectations and traditions it brings. By putting these tips into practice, you can make sure that you and your loved ones are able to have a merry and stress-free holiday season.
What to Do When the Holidays Get Stressful
While the tips above are certainly effective tools for managing holiday stress, sometimes the expectations that come with this time of year can be just too much to bear. If you are having a hard time managing holiday stress on your own, it can help to take time to recover at a professional treatment center.
Whether you are someone who is struggling with mental health problems or addiction or simply just need a break from the stress of your day-to-day life, there are many treatment programs available to help you get back on your feet.
Are you struggling with your mental health?
Royal Life Centers at The Haven is here to help you recover. Because we care.
Holiday Stress Treatment at Royal Life Centers
At Royal Life Centers, we understand how hard this time of year can be for those recovering or currently struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues. We offer a holistic and comprehensive treatment program that addresses a variety of behavioral health issues, including services such as:
- Medical detox
- Residential treatment
- Partial hospitalization
- Outpatient treatment
- Medication management
- Behavioral and holistic therapies
- Sober living and aftercare
If you are struggling with stress from the holidays, know that you do not have to go through this alone. To learn more about our program and how we can help you safely navigate the stress of the holiday season, reach out to us by calling 888-568-5998 to get started on your path to sobriety today!