The holiday season often brings on an abundance of demands from attending parties, to shopping, to cleaning and entertaining, and bringing together families and all their uniqueness. All these holiday demands can certainly provide us with additional stress!
You are not alone...
Here are some tips to help you recognize and manage stress through the holiday season.
How Stress Affects You:
Stress affects your entire body, mentally as well as physically. Some common signs include:
- Trouble sleeping
- Jaw pain
- Changes in appetite
- Frequent mood swings
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling overwhelmed
Ways to Reduce Stress:
- Accept your needs. Recognize what your triggers are. What situations make you feel physically and mentally agitated? Once you know this, you can avoid them when it's reasonable to, and to cope when you can't.
- Manage your time. Prioritizing your activities can help you use your time well. Making a day-to-day schedule helps ensure you don't feel overwhelmed by everyday tasks and deadlines.
- Be realistic. The holidays don't have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don't live up to all of your expectations. Be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they're feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
- Practice relaxation. Deep breathing, meditation and progressive muscle relaxation are good ways to calm yourself. Taking a break to refocus can have benefits beyond the immediate moment.
- Exercise daily. Schedule time to walk outside, bike or join a dance class. Whatever you do, make sure it's fun. Daily exercise naturally produces stress-relieving hormones in your body and improves your overall physical health.
- Set aside time for yourself. Schedule something that makes you feel good. It might be reading a book, go to the movies, get a massage or take your dog for a walk.
- Eat well. Eating unprocessed foods, like whole grains, vegetables, and fresh fruit is the foundation for a healthy body and mind. Eating well can also help stabilize your mood.
- Get enough sleep. Symptoms of some mental health conditions, like mania in bipolar disorder, can be triggered by getting too little sleep.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs. They don't actually reduce stress: in fact, they often worsen it. If you're struggling with substance abuse, educate yourself and get help.
- Talk to someone. Whether to friends, family, a counselor or a support group, airing out and talking can help. Consider attending a NAMI Support Group.
If the steps you've taken aren't working, it may be time to share with your mental health professional. He or she can help you pinpoint specific events that trigger you and help you create an action plan to change them.