Skip to content
Managing Stress and Rediscovering Joy this Holiday Season

Managing Stress and Rediscovering Joy this Holiday Season

The late autumn weeks set the tone for the holiday season. Stores start playing festive music, decorations start flying off the shelves, and the holiday spirit seems to get to us all, in some shape or form.

Whether or not you celebrate a tradition or festival this holiday season, this time of year is special. But as of late, it seems, the holiday season has become more stressful. More and more people say that they feel their stress levels increase, rather than decrease over the holidays.

How can we manage this stress – and rediscover the joy of the holidays?

Why Are the Holidays Stressful Now?

There are many factors for the stress around the holidays. For families that get together over the holidays, there can be emotional tensions, as well as the logistical challenges of organizing travel and accommodation. While many people get time off work, the weeks prior to the holidays can be twice as hectic.

There’s a lot of work involved in making the holiday magic come to life. Depending on a family’s different cultures and traditions, a single holiday season can involve multiple important dinners and parties. That’s means planning, shopping, cooking, prepping, and cleaning.

During feasts and meals, there’s also often an expectation to drink, which can be difficult when trying to stay sober and manage a healthy routine.

The holidays can be extremely expensive – and the pressure of gift giving hits harder for people who might not be as well off as their peers, or who have had to downsize during the recession. The aggressive commercialization of the holiday season only serves to make matters worse in that regard. You can’t escape holiday-themed commercials, holiday-themed sales, and it’s well-known that marketers deliberately play on emotions to increase sales during the holiday season.

For those who spend the holiday season alone, whether by choice or not, there are other factors at play. The holidays are consistently marketed as a large family event, but millions of people aren’t on speaking terms with their immediate or extended family members. They can feel left out or alienated by a mainstream culture that celebrates big dinners and lively discussions.

Others have survived most of their family members and may be forced to spend the holidays alone in a culture that’s become less and less accommodating to the idea of tight-knit communities and local events. The statistics are particularly sobering among the elderly, who feel increasingly isolated around this time of year. But not all hope is lost. While the holidays have become a characteristically stressful time, there are ways to deal with that stress.

Safely Navigating the Holiday Season

There is a lot to be said about mental resilience, and the role it plays in helping us deal with negative stressors. Our capacity for stress is malleable – we can face greater challenges and overcome worse circumstances through a positive attitude, and a healthy dash of joy.

Gratitude can be a powerful shield during the holiday season. Rather than focusing on the overwhelming elements of the holiday season, focus on the little miracles that the holidays bring to the table each and every day. Some things we like to focus on during the holiday season include:

  • Acts of kindness. Relish the spark of joy in a loved one’s eyes when they receive their gift, and the sincerity of the moment.
  • Family traditions. Relive some of your fondest memories with your friends and loved ones, and practice traditions that are truly meaningful to you this holiday season.
  • Seasonal treats. Focus on the tastes and sensations of family-favorite traditional foods and the sights and sounds of the season.
  • Holiday music and movies. There are sights and sounds that are special in the holiday season. It might feel a little corny or cheesy, but it’s perfectly valid to give in to some guilty pleasures, whether it’s Charles Dickens or Bruce Willis.
  • Friends and family. Think of how great it is to be seeing family again for the first time in weeks, months, or maybe even years.

Yes, focusing on effective stress management, especially if your mental health is at risk, is also important. Stress management is all about minimizing your sources of incoming stress. Some changes you can consider incorporating to manage your stress this holiday season include:

  • Delegate and distribute tasks and responsibilities.
  • Limit your “crunch time” at work in the weeks preceding your holidays.
  • During the holidays, take a break from work stressors (from emails to late night calls)
  • Identify and avoid your holiday triggers, including alcohol, eating binges, excessively large social gatherings, and drastic changes in routine.
  • Talk to your family and friends about drinking during the holiday season. Ask them to limit or avoid alcohol use around you – consider a non-alcoholic holiday feast.
  • Plan a smaller dinner and eat regularly. If food binges are a common problem or trigger for you, then don’t fast all day before the big meal.
  • Talk to your loved ones about a smaller holiday celebration. If you’re part of a big extended family, then maybe the holidays can be split between two households. Or plan a potluck, so everyone can pitch in to help make things easier.
  • Continue to maintain your current sleep schedule and daily habits. Get your exercise in, continue journaling, continue your treatments, and so on. Don’t let the holiday season disrupt your recovery routine.
  • If a bigger party and potential confrontations – especially with unresolved family issues – are inevitable, then plan an exit strategy. It’s okay to leave early, or even decline an invitation if you’re not sure you’ll be able to react in a healthy way. Have a partner, family member, or best friend help make sure that you’re able to leave when you need to.

Whether you observe a family tradition, a celebration of your own, or just treat the week like any other this holiday season, it’s important to acknowledge and identify the things about the holidays that can make us anxious and stressed and find healthy ways to cope.

Bringing Back the Holiday Magic

Rediscovering the joy of the holidays often involves embracing the simple pleasures that define the season. It’s about reconnecting with loved ones, engaging in cherished traditions, and finding moments of gratitude amidst the hustle.

For many people, it can be harder to feel in control around the holiday season, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the mounting to-do lists. Whether it’s travel logistics, job stress, a peaked workload, financial constraints, or strained family relationships, the holidays are packed with both positive and negative stressors.

That’s why it’s important to take a moment to discover joy in the smallest of moments. It might be a heartfelt conversation, a shared laugh, or the warmth of a cozy gathering. Redirecting our focus to these moments can strengthen the resolve against holiday stressors and triggers.

Here at Amend Treatment, we help you bring joy back into the holidays, and get the peace of mind you deserve.

Skip to content