The Most Stressful Time of the Year?

WS-MostStressfulTimeDon’t let demands on your time, money and energy turn the holidays into a stress fest. 

The American Psychological Association reports that more than eight of 10 Americans expect to experience stress during the holiday season. Learning these strategies can help you cope with holiday stress.

Know Your Limits

There can be a lot of pressure to do everything during the holidays—attend every party, plan every family get-together and appear at every special event. Know when you and your family need a break, and learn how to say no to events and people who will tax your emotional or financial resources.

Planning ahead as much as possible will help you get a firm grasp on your availability and busyness during each week. Try keeping a calendar to track your schedule, and set realistic time management goals.

Finances can also be strained during the holidays. Make a budget going into the season, and do your best to stick to it. Saying no to expensive treats, toys and trips can be extremely difficult, but it will be worth it when you stay within your budget.

Take Care of Yourself

Time is a scarce commodity during the holidays, but taking the time to exercise and sleep for eight hours can make a huge difference in stress levels. Not getting enough sleep or exercise can also make you more prone to illness—and the holidays are stressful enough without a cold or the flu.

Overindulging on sweet treats, rich meals or alcohol during the holidays can provide temporary stress relief. However, for long-term health and peace of mind, try to stick to balanced meals as much as possible. Eating too many fats and sweets actually reduces your energy levels—which can amp up your exhaustion. Enjoy holiday favorites such as turkey and dressing or your grandmother’s fudge pie in moderation.

Get Help When You Need It

Friends and family members can provide an excellent listening ear when the hustle and bustle of the holidays becomes too much. Spend time with close friends and lean on one another for support.

If you are having trouble coping with the stress of the holidays, consider seeing a mental health professional. Counselors, licensed therapists and psychologists are all trained to provide healthy coping skills.

When Is It Depression?

Holiday stress and sadness can be normal. However, prolonged sadness that makes daily life difficult may be depression. Symptoms of depression include:

  • Feelings of hopelessness or despair
  • Disturbed sleeping patterns (including sleeping too much and insomnia)
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that occurs only during a certain season, usually during the winter. If you find your mood darkening with the longer days and colder weather, SAD may be the culprit.

Relief from depression is available at any age and during any season. Talk therapy and medication can be used to alleviate symptoms, and those with SAD may benefit from using light therapy. Talk with your physician about your symptoms, and discuss the treatment plan that may be best for you.

This article was reviewed by Julie Schnieders, W.H.N.P., M.S., executive director, St.Vincent Women’s Center.

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