Not Feeling Holly and Jolly? Tips for Coping with End-of-Year Stress

For some people, December brings too many opportunities for anxiety or depression – pressure to maintain busy social schedules, spend money, find perfect gifts, eat unhealthy foods and ignore normal sleep routines.

Here are some early indicators that stress might be the Grinch in your December this year:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Feeling sad
  • Upset stomach
  • Headaches
  • Muscle stiffness

Amber Olson, LCSW, regional director for Memorial Behavioral Health Clinical Operations, encourages people to pay attention to those early warning signs and take action to reduce stress.

“Ongoing stress can lead to physical and mental health problems including clinical depression and anxiety, gastrointestinal problems, insomnia, a compromised immune system as well as relationship and work-related problems,” Olson said. “Unfortunately the holiday season provides us with many stress traps, but there are practical steps you can take to combat its effects.”

She recommends these self-care ideas:

  • Remember you can always say “No, thank you” to invitations when you are overbooked, even the fun ones!
  • Don’t minimize feelings of sadness and grief during the holidays. Allow yourself to grieve losses or life transitions like divorce, death of a loved one or changes in financial status.
  • Reach out to friends, family or a professional for support. Talking through holiday stressors not only can help you feel better, but you might receive some ideas on how to reduce holiday stress, too.
  • Accept family and loved ones as they are. Pay attention to what stressors they might be experiencing. Recognizing and trying to understand a loved ones’ stress-related behavior takes less energy than becoming angered or frustrated by it.

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