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Holiday Mental Health: Reducing Holiday Stress & Anxiety

News Release

holiday stress during covid

Believe it or not, it is already the holiday season again. This year has certainly been unique, and many people are looking forward to a holiday break. However, while the holidays are a time for celebration and reflection, they can also be a time of immense stress. The holiday season always has a lot going on, and the holidays can be extremely overwhelming for some people. Also, this year may be particularly stressful due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the article below, we discuss sources of stress during the holidays. We also cover actions that people can take to manage holiday stress, and we detail available treatment programs for people who are unable to find relief on their own. With the right management and treatment, people do not have to experience extreme stress during the holidays each year.

What causes stress during the holidays?

The holidays are a busy time. People are coming and going constantly, and the season flies by with social engagements and other events. All this activity can become tiring and result in a lot of unnecessary stress and holiday anxiety. Common sources of stress during the holiday season include:

  • Gift shopping. People can spend a lot of time and money trying to find the perfect gifts for friends and loved ones. Shopping malls can be extremely hectic, and gift shopping can significantly strain people's budgets.
  • Hosting meals. Holiday meals are often enjoyable to share with relatives and friends. However, they can often be stressful, too. Holiday meals involve a lot of planning, preparation, and coordination. Sometimes, all the work surrounding holiday meals can make the events very challenging.
  • Family visits. Family visits always involve a lot of work. During the holidays, visiting family often requires travel, and visits can present a significant disruption to people's routines. Coordinating a big group for family outings, meals, and other events can be extremely stressful. Also, in some cases, family members will have to deal with difficult relationships with other family members.

During the 2020 holiday season, the above sources of stress may intensify due to the effects of COVID-19. Many people are worried about exposure to the virus and maintaining their health. Additionally, people are also worried about their loved ones' health, particularly with family members in high-risk demographics. The pandemic can add another layer of stress as people try to adhere to wearing masks, regular hand-washing, and social distancing protocols and, in some cases, cancel holiday plans entirely.

Due to the above stressors, individuals may experience a range of challenging feelings during the holiday season. In addition to a general sense of being overwhelmed, people may experience feelings of:

  • Inadequacy. People may worry about whether they are providing adequate hospitality to friends and family. In other cases, people may experience self-image issues around others during the holiday season.
  • Loneliness. Some people may celebrate the holidays by themselves and may face a period of extreme loneliness and even holiday depression. This reality is particularly the case this year with many people canceling holiday plans due to the pandemic.
  • Hopelessness. Intense stress can lead to feelings of hopelessness and a sense that one is unable to manage their mental health. When people feel that they cannot change their situations, this experience can cause depression during the holidays and even more stress.
  • Fear. The combination of holiday gatherings and the COVID-19 pandemic can lead to significant anxiety about a person's health and their loved ones' well-being. This fear can be ever-present and extremely harmful to a person's mental health.

Stress during the holidays can be overwhelming, and people who experience holiday stress should know that other people share their experiences. However, with the right actions and treatment, people can get in control of their holiday mental health.

How can people reduce holiday stress?

One of the best ways to reduce holiday stress is to follow the theme of giving back with gratitude. People who feel gratitude are less likely to be depressed or become overwhelmed by holiday stress, and giving back during the holidays is easy. Ways that anyone can give back with gratitude include:

  • Helping a family member with chores. Helping family members with their household responsibilities can be a great way to show gratitude and bond with others during the holiday season. Also, physical activity during chores can be a great way to combat stress.
  • Writing thank you notes. Thank you notes are a simple yet impactful way to show others that you care. You can write thank you notes for specific things that another person did for you or just as a general appreciation for having the person in your life. In addition to showing gratitude, people often catch up after they give and receive thank you cards, and this positive social interaction can help a person reduce holiday stress.
  • Giving genuine compliments to those around you. When a person receives a genuine compliment, it can make their day. Giving sincere compliments can also result in the other person having a positive experience by showing their gratitude and appreciation for the people around them.

In addition to showing gratitude, people can also reduce holiday stress and anxiety by respecting their limits and emphasizing self-care. These methods can include simplifying holiday plans, learning to say "no" to relatives, reducing holiday alcohol consumption, sticking to a budget, and taking a moment for oneself.

Are there behavioral health treatment programs for stress?

For some people, the above at-home methods for managing stress may not be enough. In such cases, individuals may need the help of mental health professionals and may benefit from enrolling in a behavioral health treatment program.

At Aurora Santa Rosa Hospital, we offer a range of treatment programs to help people manage stress. We offer inpatient treatment and outpatient treatment services, including partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) and intensive outpatient programs (IOPs). Treatment programs typically involve a combination of individual therapy, group therapy, and medication-based treatment.

During treatment programs, patients who suffer from extreme stress learn about the origins of their stress and how behavioral patterns may contribute to that stress. Importantly, patients learn how to recognize their responses to external situations and adapt those responses to reduce stress. With a better ability to manage one's behavioral patterns, individuals can significantly improve their mental well-being.

Getting started at Santa Rosa Hospital

Getting started with a behavioral health treatment program for one's stress is easy. Our team at Aurora Santa Rosa Hospital has decades of experience helping patients manage mental health conditions, and we are happy to help answer any questions you may have. To learn more about treatment options for you or a loved one, contact us online or call us directly at (877) 717-0085. In addition to answering your questions about our programs, a team member can help schedule a free mental health assessment for you or a loved one.