For many people, the holidays are a season of joy, celebration, and coming together with loved ones. But for many of us it can also be an extremely stressful time: keeping up with the hectic pace of social gatherings, shopping, family and work obligations can take a toll on your health and well-being, leaving you feeling worn down and overwhelmed. But mental health experts say it doesn’t have to be this way.
Ann Rider, Recovery and Resiliency Manager for OptumHealth, says that for some, holiday stress can create feelings of anxiety or guilt resulting in mental and physical side effects that can impact your health long after the Yuletide season is behind us.
Rider recommends following a few simple tips to help avoid being overwhelmed by the holiday hubbub:
Set boundaries. Remind yourself that this time of year can and should be enjoyable. Start by establishing clear expectations for and from family, work and friends.
Make time for yourself. Find ways to incorporate “downtime” into your holiday. Start by using positive psychology techniques, such as keeping a gratitude journal, to help you refocus on relationships that are important to you and not the material trappings that can predominate this time of year.
Make lists —and stick to them! Create lists of the activities and priorities you’d like to focus on this month. This will help you make healthy spending decisions and/or prioritize ways to celebrate that don’t cost money – like caroling with friends or taking part in a cookie exchange.
Resist the urge to self-compare. While it’s easy to start to self-judge or compare when reconnecting with family and friends, avoid this by keeping your mind on what matters most to you during the holidays.
Giving back helps everyone. Donating time at a food bank, walking an elderly neighbor’s dog or helping a meal service deliver meals to the needy are great ways to help build some perspective and escape current or potential stress in your life.
Put your health first. Avoid over indulging on food, alcohol or other substances that could cause serious health effects.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. And finally, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the demands of a hectic holiday season. It can happen to any of us, and there are people out there who are ready and available to help – whether it’s a friend or family member or the person at the other end of a toll-free crisis line.
If you or someone you know is feeling overwhelmed and needs some extra support, OptumHealth’s 24-hour crisis line is free and available year-round for anyone to call: (800) 576-7764.