9 Ways to Deal with Stress During the Holidays

close up of a person in a sweat suit holding a mug

Having a mental illness is the same as having any medical illness.  Stress can throw anyone off-kilter.

It helps to have a plan and to take good care of yourself.  Here are nine tips for coping with the holidays.   


1. Make yourself a priority  

As we’re hosting, shopping, cooking, cleaning, attending get-togethers, and checking off other tasks on our to-do lists, self-care often takes a backseat. But your health comes first. This also means maintaining your routine as much as possible. Make sure you get the sleep you need and keep up any activities that make you feel good, such as exercise or time with friends.


2. Avoid feeling guilty  

During the holiday season, many of us want to be many things to our loved ones. We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so we put pressure on ourselves along with a hefty side of stress-inducing guilt.  Remind yourself that pleasing everyone is unrealistic.


3. Keep connected  

If you aren’t feeling well, you might be tempted to isolate yourself. If you’re not in the holiday mood, consider spending time with a friend or calling a person who cares about you. Connecting with just one person can make you ten times less likely to get depressed.  


4. Tune into your feelings—and be honest

You may love your family very much. But if you’re honest with yourself, you might realize that being with them also can be stressful. Coming to this realization, while uncomfortable, will help you figure out better ways to cope.


5. Identify what you really want to do

For instance, you might want to spend the entire day with your family or just go for dessert. Make the amount of time you spend with your family a choice rather than just an obligation. Make choices that help you relax a bit. 


6. Plan a time-out when stress strikes

Your “strategic retreat” from a stressful gathering may be anything from walking the dog to getting tea at a café to listening to soothing music to having a good cry. Decide whether the healthier choice is to return to the get-together or go home.


7. Buddy up  

Have a confidant close by or on speed dial: a friend, cousin, sister/brother who gets it,


8. Avoid alcohol

Alcohol can interfere with medication and exacerbate symptoms. It also might spark an altercation.


9. Laugh—a lot   

Dr. Srihari from MindMap adds: “During the holidays, as we spend time with those dear to us, it can be easy to return to old wounds. Give yourself permission to take a few days off old worries and enjoy each other’s company. If you are not in treatment for a mental illness, consider asking for help. For those with psychotic illnesses, MindMap is just a phone call away.”

Here are more tips from True Stress Management.