Managing Holiday Stress: A Guide to Mental Well-being
The holiday season is frequently painted as a time of joy and festivity, filled with travel, gift-giving, and cherished family moments. However, it’s also a time of the year that can come with emotional strains. In fact, it’s not uncommon for individuals to experience holiday stress due to things such as family conflict, financial strain, loneliness, grief, and seasonal affective disorder.
For people living with mental health and substance use conditions, this time can be even more difficult. A survey conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) found that 64% of individuals living with a mental illness reported that their conditions worsened around the holidays.
If you find yourself experiencing holiday-related stress, you are certainly not alone. Our compassionate and qualified medical and psychiatric professionals here at Seven Counties Services aided in crafting the below information. Use it as a guide to help you better understand common stressors and find ways to manage them for a successful holiday season.
A 2023 survey by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and College of Medicine found Americans are feeling stress this holiday season in four overarching areas. These include national issues and world affairs (81%), rising prices and holiday spending (75%), increasing cases of respiratory illnesses such as the flu and COVID-19 (53%), and memories of last year’s holiday travel meltdown (44%). These are in addition to stressors that often come with the holidays (family conflict, financial strain, loneliness, grief, and seasonal affective disorder), as well as stressors unique to every individual.
With the holiday season upon us, it’s important to understand that a certain amount of stress is normal. It’s even more important to know that this stress can heighten symptoms of a mental health condition, such as depression or a substance use disorder. However, there are ways to help manage the stress or condition and maintain your mental well-being.
Below are stress-managing tips to help you better enjoy the holiday season and care for your mental well-being.
Focus on what you can control.
While often easier said than done, focusing on what you can control will help you care for your physical and mental health this season. If you are nervous about traveling, understand that you cannot plan for every scenario. Researching and preparing accordingly can help, along with these additional travel tips. If you’re feeling stressed by the news and media, consider taking a digital break.
Have a plan in place.
Having a plan ahead of time can help make difficult moments more manageable. Before the holidays or any big events you may be worried about, write down a list of activities that help you feel calm. Keep the list handy and come back to it anytime you’re feeling stressed, sad, or lonely.
Make gift-giving intentional instead of expensive.
If you are part of the 75% who are feeling holiday stress due to rising prices and spending, these alternative ideas might help. Instead of overspending on gifts, focus on celebrating together by being present, engaging, and supportive. Consider ideas like Secret Santa, instead of buying gifts for each person, and giving homemade or handmade items. Being intentional with your time during the holiday season can carry special meaning to those around you.
Connect with your community.
If you can’t be near loved ones during the holidays, finding a supportive community can be helpful. Try exploring support groups, community centers, local meetups, and faith communities to connect with others. Additionally, research has shown that volunteering offers significant health benefits, especially for older adults, including improved physical and mental health. If you’re able, there are many opportunities to volunteer and donate your time, especially around the holidays. View current volunteer opportunities at Seven Counties Services.
Take time for yourself.
Spending time with family or friends during the holidays can be overwhelming. When you start to feel overwhelmed or stressed in the moment, try sneaking away to a quiet room or going for a walk. Remember, it’s okay to say no if you need to. This is also a good time to revisit your pre-prepared plan.
If you’re in therapy, keep attending your sessions.
Although the holiday season may be busy, try to keep any regularly scheduled therapy sessions a top priority. The holidays can bring up difficult emotions. Keeping scheduled sessions helps ensure you have time to talk through and process anything that comes up. If you are going out of town and you typically meet in person, ask about virtual meetings.
Know when to seek help.
If you feel that your mental health struggles are becoming overwhelming and difficult to handle, it is important to seek help and know that treatment is available.
How to Seek Help
You are not alone! At Seven Counties Services, we take pride in offering personalized treatment options for anyone experiencing symptoms that impact their daily lives. We’re fortunate to have some of Kentucky’s most qualified medical and psychiatric professionals on our team. From licensed clinicians and prescribers to nurses, case coordinators, and more, our dedicated professionals are here for you throughout the holiday season and beyond.
Regardless of diagnosis or insurance status, we ensure getting the support you need is as easy as possible. To schedule your first appointment, you can call (502) 589-1100 or complete an online appointment request.
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs urgent help, there are several 24/7 crisis lines available:
- Adult Crisis Line: (502) 589-4313
- Child Crisis Line: (502) 589-8070
- Addiction Recovery Hotline: (502) 583-3951
- Developmental Disability Crisis Line: (502) 459-5292
- Suicide And Crisis Lifeline: 988
This holiday season spread the gift of support. Download our crisis line directory and share it with friends and family. You never know whose life you might positively impact. Together, we can make a difference!
Reviewed by Jean Romano, LPCC‑S, the Vice President of Adult Services at Seven Counties Services.