Holidays are supposed to be jolly almost by definition. But many people find the Halloween-New Year's stretch to be stressful and far from cheery.
“There’s often a lot of financial strain coupled with family dynamics that can be hard to deal with,” says Cara Focazio, MD, an internal medicine physician with LVPG Internal Medicine–Bartonsville. “With that foundation, a minefield of other stressors can become more difficult.”
These can include high expectations for special dinners or events, grief over lost loved ones, sadness at the passing of another year, loneliness from lack of family or friends, guilt over food or alcohol excesses, or feelings of inadequacy. For some, lack of daylight can trigger seasonal depression that may make stress feel even worse.
Stress can take a physical as well as mental toll. “It can lead to high blood pressure and blood sugar, which can exacerbate conditions such as diabetes and hypertension at a time when you already may be eating more and exercising less,” says Ranju Gupta, MD, medical oncologist with Lehigh Valley Topper Cancer Institute. Stress also may make you more vulnerable to seasonal colds and flu.
Some simple, mindful steps can help put more cheer back in your holidays.
Think back on previous holidays or the past year and ask what situations have frazzled you. “Try to anticipate emotions, especially if you’ve been through a big personal change in your life,” says family medicine physician Jennifer Stockhausen, DO, with LVPG Family Medicine–Whitehall.
Tune out social media
“People tend to post only their highs and make everything look perfect,” Dr. Stockhausen says. “It’s easy to measure your holidays against everyone else’s and feel inadequate.” Avoid comparisons and try to be present with the people who are actually around you.
Embrace mixed emotions
“There’s a tendency for grieving people to feel guilty about being happy,” Dr. Stockhausen says. “But it’s OK to feel excited about seeing the grandkids – even when you’re sad at the same time. Allow yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling.”