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Community Health: Education, Prevention & Inspiration

Coping with holiday stress: Six tips to support your mental health

As the familiar holiday jingle goes “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Well, not for everyone! Surveys indicate 45% of people living in the United States would choose to skip out on the holidays, rather than deal with the stress of it all.

No matter what holidays you celebrate, the expectations during this time can be overwhelming. Tasks such as buying gifts, preparing food, and planning events require additional time and resources which are often already in short supply.

As with last year, the 2021 holiday season may feel especially challenging. Considering the loss of loved ones, financial stress from lost jobs, and feelings of anxiety and loneliness associated with the pandemic, you may be able to relate to the notion of skipping the holidays all together.

While there is much discussion regarding returning to “normal”, it may feel challenging to return to pre-pandemic holiday traditions. Mental Health First Aid suggests creating new traditions that work for you and prioritize your mental wellbeing. This might include smaller gatherings or giving gifts of time spent together rather than material objects.

Consider the following in supporting your own mental health throughout the season of good cheer:

  • Be kind to yourself: Prioritize your own physical and mental wellbeing. Know your triggers and prepare for stressful situations.
  • It’s okay to say no: Schedule your time and activities to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Decline plans that don’t fit into your schedule or bring you joy.
  • Avoid the social media trap: Remember, no one’s life is perfect. There is more to the picture than what is shared on social media. We all struggle at times and it’s not realistic to expect otherwise.
  • Practice setting boundaries: Relationships can be complex. Acknowledge that you can only control your own role in a situation. If needed, limit your exposure to negative or challenging individuals.
  • Practice healthy habits: It may be tempting to let these go during the holidays. Remember eating well, getting enough sleep, and making time for relaxation serves us well in dealing with stress of any kind.
  • Find support: Talking to a supportive friend, family member or a counselor can help.