Living Well

How to handle holiday stress

Dr. Wachovia Banks, Primary Care
How to handle holiday stress

We are now in the midst of what should be one of the happiest seasons of the year. Stores are playing holiday tunes, and homes around our area are transforming into magical winter wonderlands.

While it’s comforting to see people trying to get back to normal, the Holiday Season can trigger emotional stress, and it’s important to remind people that seasonal depression, or what’s commonly called the holiday blues, is real and should be addressed, so that the holidays are as enjoyable as possible.

Navigating the holidays can be difficult for some

With Thanksgiving behind us, many families are now preparing for Christmas or Hanukkah, and for many people, it will be the first time for large gatherings since the beginning of the pandemic. While it should be a happy occasion, many people find this time of year incredibly stressful, to the point that they suffer from the holiday blues, which can lead to anger, loneliness, poor sleep, and an unhealthy indulgence in food and alcohol.

The issue becomes even more concerning for those who have a mental illness. National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that 64 percent of people with a mental illness find the holiday makes their condition worse.

Locally, this time of year could be even more stressful as families in our community continue to recover from Hurricane Ida. All of this strain can lead to the holiday blues, and some of the common symptoms that the blues are impacting you are:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Sleeping much more or much less than normal
  • Withdrawing from friends and family

If you are suffering from the blues, know you are not alone. Psychology.org recently conducted a study on holiday stress and found that of those surveyed, 44 percent of women and 33 percent of men said they feel stressed during the holidays. Some of the issues that caused the anxiety were:

  • Family gatherings that dissolve into arguments or disagreements when discussing current events
  • Trying to navigate a holiday budget that doesn’t add to what is already tight financial times
  • Creating a festive home and finding the perfect gifts for loved ones

The encouraging news about the holiday blues is that it’s temporary, and there are steps you can take to get through the season with as little stress as possible.

Tips to get through the holiday blues

If you are feeling a little down right now, a little bit of selfishness can go a long way in helping your mental state. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, that your diet includes a lot of fruit and vegetables, you limit alcohol intake and get some exercise, as that in itself can ease stress. Other tips for handling the blues:

  • Maintain your normal routine as much as you can
  • Set realistic goals and expectations, including a sensible shopping budget, and stick to it
  • When it comes to family conversations, focus on topics that everyone has in common and avoid issues that can lead to disagreements
  • Don’t be afraid to decline invitations to parties if you are not in the mood to socialize or don’t have the time
  • Try to celebrate the holidays differently, especially if you are grieving the loss of a loved one or you are still in the midst of rebuilding after Ida; creating new traditions can bring excitement and happiness to an otherwise upsetting time

If you do find yourself in a more depressed state, contact your healthcare provider to ensure you are not suffering from something more serious that needs to be treated.

About Dr. Banks

 Dr. Wachovia Banks is a Primary Care provider with West Jefferson Medical Center.