Tips for Managing Holiday Stress

The holiday season is drawing near, bringing changes in our usual routines and habits. While many of these may be welcome changes, it is not unusual for people to find themselves experiencing a range of feelings which might include anxiety, sadness, loneliness, financial worries, family issues, and other stressors.

Here are some tips to help you reduce stress during this holiday season and afterwards:

  1. Aim for “good enough”: Start by setting your expectations at realistic levels. Don’t expect things to go perfectly. Give yourself (and others) permission to be the imperfect humans we are.   
  2. Plan time-outs: If you will be with family or friends this holiday season, make sure to build in time for yourself. Get outside for a walk or run, read, or go to another room and call someone. Even breathing deeply in a quiet place for a couple of minutes helps reduce stress. 
  3. Practice acceptance: When difficult feelings arise, allow them to surface and acknowledge them. Try taking a few slow, deep breaths. Notice, without judgment, what you are thinking or feeling. Then return your attention to your breathing. Repeat the process until you feel better.
  4. Respect your boundaries: There may be many demands on your time during break. It will be helpful to be clear with yourself and with others about what you are willing to do and what you are not. Beware of taking on more than you are comfortable doing, whether it’s socializing, taking care of others, or anything else.
  5. Simplify: If your tradition includes gift-giving, consider giving the gift of your time by planning to do something together. Research demonstrates consistently that investing in experiences and relationships is better for our overall happiness. 
  6. Remember the basics: Make time to get good sleep, include healthy foods and snacks in your diet, drink plenty of fresh water, and limit alcohol and caffeine. Also, regular exercise has long been known to decrease stress, so try to keep up with your exercise program, if you have one. If not, this would be a good time to begin, starting out slowly with walking or yoga, and focusing on keeping a consistent practice. 
  7. If you are alone: Make some solid plans for how you would like to spend this time. Perhaps see this as an opportunity to enjoy some things you don’t typically have time for, such as reading a favorite novelist, seeing a movie, or attending a community event. If you are alone and prefer not to be, consider participating in local programs or volunteering for a meaningful cause. If volunteering doesn’t feel comfortable right now, consider reaching out to someone you have wanted to reconnect with or get to know better.
  8. Managing crises: If it ever gets overwhelming, be aware that there are lots of supports out there for you. These include emergency text lines and live chats, as well as the CMHS Counselor on Call.
  9. Access on-site counseling: If you are in town, or when you return after break, remember that our team at CMHS is here for short term counseling support as well as referral assistance for students who may need longer-term support. 

All of us at CMHS wish you a peaceful holiday break!