🎄 The holidays can be a very stressful, sad, and overwhelming time

🎄 One NJ expert offers tips on how to deal with holiday stress

🎄 Accept your feelings, be kind to yourself, and don't expect perfection

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Or is it? For many people, the holidays are a joyous and happy time. For others, it’s very stressful, overwhelming, and maybe even sad.

This kind of stress can have an impact on one’s mental health, said Lorelle Holway, vice president of education and consultation at CarePlus NJ.

What can contribute to holiday stress?

Besides the everyday chores like working at our jobs, and taking care of the house and the kids, we tend to add multiple to-do’s on our already busy list during this time of year, Holway said. That can include shopping, decorating, wrapping, and baking, not to mention attending multiple parties and gatherings. This can be very overwhelming, she added.

Financial concerns can also contribute to holiday stress. Most people are on a tight budget and it bothers them because they can’t afford to buy things off of a loved one’s wish list. Doing so could put them into significant debt, which is anxiety-provoking.

“I would also be remiss if I didn’t discuss the impact of losing special people in our lives and loved ones, and how that could bring up a lot of emotions for people during this time of year,” Holway said.

It can be very sad and emotional. If you’re missing loved ones during the holidays, or if you’re feeling lonely, it can be tricky, triggering grief, making it a very difficult time to get through, she added.

Stressful holiday
Maridav, ThinkStock

How can we cope with stress in healthy and productive ways?

Accept your feelings, Holway said. That is very important. Realize it’s a common feeling. Most people feel anxious, overwhelmed, and even sad during this time of year. It might be comforting to know that you’re not alone.

Holway said setting boundaries is also important, and people should try not to feel pressured to uphold family traditions.

“Specifically, when dealing with loss, some traditions may be comforting. It could be a great way to remember a loved one. But sometimes it can cause sadness because you’re realizing they’re not there,” Holway said.

In these circumstances, find a different way to celebrate. It doesn’t have to be long-term, but rather a break from the tradition in the short-term, she said.

Another boundary could be limiting time with people who you may not have the greatest relationship with, and trying not to feel guilty about it, either.

Always take care of yourself. Don’t wait until next year to do it. It’s important to engage in healthy ways of coping during the season to help manage stress levels and feelings of anxiety, Holway said.

young girl shout because of christmas stress

How can I stay organized to alleviate stress?

Holway suggests keeping a list as planning out tasks allows you to break them down day by day, so you’re not rushing to get everything done at once.

“It just feels really good and your heart beats just a little faster when you get to cross things off and see how much you’ve already accomplished,” Holway said.

When it comes to spending money, she said to create a budget. Make it as realistic as possible and try your best to stick to it so you don’t put yourself in unnecessary debt.

Family All Together At Christmas Dinner
Catherine Yeulet

What are the holidays about?

The holidays are about spending time with family, friends, and loved ones. It’s not about buying the perfect gift or cooking the perfect dinner, Holway said.

Holway said people need to remember to be kind to themselves and not to expect perfection.

So, if you're stressing that your lasagna isn't as good as how your grandmother made it, let it go.

“We get so hung up in those little imperfections when really, no one even notices at the end of the day, and it’s okay,” Holway said. "All you can do is your best and your best is good enough."

And remember, we are often are worst critics.

“It is impossible to please everyone, but we are often our harshest critic. Our loved ones typically don’t have the same have the same criticism of us as have of ourselves,” she said.

When all is said and done, the holidays are about creating memories, and not about being perfect. Talk, laugh, and reconnect with people on a deeper level, and just take the pressure off.

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