Holidays are often looked towards with great excitement and anticipation.  Families come together, gifts are exchanged, traditions are repeated.  For many, however, the holiday season also can be a time of stress, and for people prone to anxiety and/or depression, this time of year can often trigger or exacerbate these feelings.

If you are someone who often feels stress during the holidays, here are some tips for managing it:

  1. First and foremost, tell yourself it’s okay to have ambivalent (or negative) feelings.  Instead of fighting the anxiety, Recognize it, Accept it, and remind yourself that you have Strategies to minimize it.  Sometimes getting together with family members isn’t joyful; whether it brings about painful memories or reminds us of how things have or haven’t changed, there are a myriad of reasons why it can be difficult, and that’s okay.
  2. Try to have Realistic Expectations, both for yourself and others.  Nothing has to be perfect, whether you’re decorating, preparing meals, or selecting gifts.  We also shouldn’t expect perfection from others.  Accepting “good” prevents the inevitable shortcomings of ourselves and others from coloring the experience as a whole.
  3. Plan Ahead.  Make a list of all tasks that need to be done, a schedule for when they will get done, AND make a budget for that list.  Take control of what you can.
  4. Learn how to Ask For Help or Say No.  Even if it feels very important to continue a certain tradition or take care of all your guests, it is not important enough to compromise your emotional well-being.  Ask for help from those you know will be happy to and practice saying no (even if it’s in your own head) if something feels too demanding or just unnecessary.
  5. Maintain Healthy Habits.  As much as possible, stick to your exercise and sleep routines.  This will help to keep your cortisol levels low.  Indulge, but don’t overindulge in unhealthy foods.  You’ll feel better about yourself and less stressed overall.  

If you notice your symptoms worsening, or are feeling overwhelmed, Seek Professional Help