Stress and depression can increase during the holidays because the season presents a dizzying array of demands – parties, shopping, baking, cleaning and entertaining, to name just a few. But with some practical tips, you can minimize the stress, especially if the holidays have taken an emotional toll on you in the past.

Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has died or you can’t be with loved ones, realize it’s common to feel sadness and grief, especially this time of year. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.

Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or social events. They provide opportunities to get support and find companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is an excellent way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.

Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be celebrated in ways you have done in the past, and they do not have to be perfect. 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. For example, if your adult children can’t come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos.

Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t meet your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the emotional effects of the holiday, too.

Stick to a budget. Before going gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford. Then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Try alternatives such as donating to a charity in someone’s name, giving homemade gifts or having a family gift exchange.

Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list to prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.

Learn to say no. Saying “yes” when you should say “no” can leave you feeling resentful and anxious. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can only participate in some events or activities. If it’s impossible to say “no,” try removing something else from your agenda.

Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to stress and guilt. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks. Continue to get plenty of sleep and physical activity.

Take a breather. Make time for self-care. Spending just 15 minutes alone without distractions may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Take a walk at night. Listen to soothing music. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.

Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may feel persistently sad or anxious, unable to sleep, irritable, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

Take control of the holidays. Don’t let the holidays become something you dread. Instead, take steps to prevent the stress and depression that can descend during the holidays. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or personal demands, so you can combat them before they become problematic. With some planning and positive thinking, you can find peace and joy during the holidays.

Need additional assistance? Reach out to a SupportLinc Care Advocate by calling 888-881-5462 for in-the-moment support, guidance and additional resources. Assistance is available 24/7/365.

Reference: SupportLinc (