Tips for Managing Holiday Stress

The holiday season can be a difficult time. Between changes in the weather, a new year approaching and the hustle and bustle of everyday life, stress can become all too common. Bancroft NeuroRehab neuropsychologist Kathryn Murray, Psy.D., offers some insight in managing your mental health through the holidays. 

What causes holiday stress?

“It is very easy during the holidays to get caught up in the expectations and worry about what we “should” do,” explains Dr. Murray. “There may be added pressure to make a “perfect” holiday for family and friends.”

Before you can start managing your stress, it’s important to first identify the cause of it. Here are a few reasons why you could be feeling on edge: 

  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Too much or not enough togetherness 
  • Eating, drinking and/or spending too much 
  • Too much activity or time moving quickly 
  • Dwelling on losses or disappointments over the past year 

Some things in our lives are difficult to change and sometimes these stressors occur without us even realizing it. But what we can control is how we respond! 

Dr. Murray offers the following tips for managing holiday stress:

  • Don’t abandon healthy routines and habits 
  • Plan ahead and stick to a budget 
  • Acknowledge feelings if you are overwhelmed 
  • Try to set aside differences 
  • Learn to say “no” 
  • Practice mindfulness and take a breather! 
  • Remember: Be kind to yourself! 
  • Seek professional help if needed 

In years to come our friends and family will remember the good feelings of spending the holidays together,” says Dr. Murray. “Take a few minutes before the busyness starts to think of just one simple thing that you are looking forward to this holiday season. This could be watching a favorite movie, having hot chocolate with a friend, or seeing a holiday light display. As best you can, aim to be “in the moment” during holiday activities by taking in the sights, sounds, and smells rather than thinking of your to-do list. 

While so much of the holiday season focuses on giving to others, remember to give to yourself, as well! Make it a priority to carve out “me” time and to practice self-care. Be patient with yourself and plan for the holidays accordingly.