Holidays are supposed to be joyous and melodious, this concept overshadows the peer pressure that comes with it due to commercialism of holidays. The expectations are to enjoy holidays by spending money, purchasing gifts, carrying out astounding parties and going to gatherings. The ultimate outcome is burgeoning stress among families either due to financial problems, hosting responsibilities, social stress or family tension. Did you know that December is considered as a National Stress-Free Family Holiday Month? The objective is to acknowledge the problem and rectify it by normalizing its existence. It is to ensure that for many holidays can be a cause of anxiety, stress and depression. 1 in 5 of us struggles with mental illness which intensifies over winter holidays and must not be ignored at any cost. Having stress-free holidays may sound as an unrealistic goal but one can still have a bright vacation by just managing stress.
What are Holiday Triggers?
There are variety of triggers that can cause holiday depression among people. Some people deal with loss of a loved one, other can be under the influence of long term isolation. Many struggling with health issues exhibit crotchety behavior. Below are mentioned triggers that can play a substantial role for enrooting stress among individuals.
- Financial Strain:
Purchasing gifts for friends and family on holidays is an important tradition. It comes with a distress of getting a perfect present that is affordable. A research from Principal Financial Group shows that stress due to exhaustive financial demands in holidays has escalated to more than 14% since 2019.
- Seasonal Anxiety:
Some people experience seasonal anxiety specific to winters. Typical sadness prevails due to change of wind. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) worsens due to lack of sunlight exposure.
- Disturbed Schedule:
Heavy meals and freedom can trigger stress too. Loose schedule will ultimately result in over eating/junk eating and no routine stress.
- Family Time:
Everyone has different family environment, some people enjoy the togetherness while others feel agitated or suffocated. It doesn’t matter how attached you are with your family it can be challenging, you always need some air.
- Holiday Gatherings:
December is a month of celebration, you have to attend gatherings and appear in parties where there will be alcohol or drugs. This means you are more vulnerable to potential triggers. Be mindful of how to deal with such situations. Avoid people who charge your aura with negativity and deteriorate your mental stability.
- Feeling Pressured to Be Happy:
One can feel pressured to look happy on holidays. Expectations are high in terms of keeping the smile on face intact in front of relatives, family and friends. It gets tiresome when in reality person is struggling with anxiety and depression.
How to deal with holiday stress and triggers?
Holidays are meant to be fun and relaxing. The holiday associated stress has to be dealt immediately to cut down the harm it may cause later. Here is how you can have a stress-free happy December.
- Recognizing Triggers:
Realizing your triggers is the only way you can manage your holiday stress. Ask yourself what is triggering you, is it the sobriety, holiday expenses, family get-togethers, your negative relationship with the food or winter stress. Think ahead and plan how you will deal with certain situations. Once you have a plan it is less likely that stress will overtake you.
- Learning the cause of stress:
Stress is an effective adaptation to protect yourself from difficult situations. This fight or flight mechanism is opposite to useful when you are to deal with delicate matters. To fight it one has to know symptoms of stress i.e. one’s body reaction towards it. Does your head ache? Does your body feel tired and restless? Does your heartbeat accelerate? Once you know these signs it gets easier to handle it on spot.
- Setting Reasonable expectations:
Don’t test yourself beyond your capabilities. If your Christmas plan is to maintain sobriety and expect everything to be perfect. You are putting yourself under a lot of pressure, you may end up harming yourself even more if nothing goes pre-planned. Prepare to be flexible, set your priorities and face any obstacle that may come your way with positivity.
- Practicing handling the triggers:
There are several ways to address difficult situations this holidays. Here is what you can practice to manage triggers:
- Practice self-care i.e. exercise, sleep, meditate, read etc.
- Interact with your family and friends
- Make sure to take your safe drinks to parties/gatherings
- Ask for help from your loved ones
- Don’t hesitate to say no to people or places that detriment your sobriety
- Feeling overwhelmed is normal in holidays, try simple breathing exercises or lessen socializing
- Stay at home and practice substance-free tradition
- Create a budget
- Take some time away from social media and social gatherings
- Manage expectations and allow yourself to forgive others
- Plan your day. Setting up a routine helps evade triggers that mostly occur due to disturbed schedule.
When to Seek Professional Help?
Sometimes even with your best efforts one can still feel exasperated in holidays. If you experience persistent anxiety/depression symptoms like below, you must consult to a professional therapist/ mental health instructor.
- Trouble in maintaining focus
- Persistence sadness
- Inability to cope with day to day activities
- Feeling muscle tension or fatigue
- Sleep deprivation or loss of appetite
- Isolating oneself
- Having suicidal thoughts
When you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or purposelessness of your living, seek immediate help from anyone close to you or get professional help.