The holidays can be a joyous and relaxing time. However, it can also be a time when we experience additional stress and anxiety. The time leading up to the holidays can often exacerbate burnout as we juggle end-of-year deadlines, performance reviews, travel and holiday parties, among other obligations. The American Psychological Association found that 38% of people say their stress increases during the holidays.
1. Family related. Those who are separated from family due to various reasons might feel lonely and isolated at this time of the year. Holidays often bring back memories of the past, so grief may also be present. On the other hand, unresolved family conflicts, unrealistic expectations of what the family is gathering, and confusion about one’s place in the family can raise anxiety too.
2. Social stressors. Shopping in crowds, standing in lines, driving in traffic, entertaining guests or attending social functions creates more opportunities for social anxiety than almost any other time of the year.3. Environmental issues. Traveling in bad weather or extra traffic and delays is always stressful. December is also the darkest month of the year, with little daylight, resulting in a wintertime depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder.
4. Work or financial issues. When the economy is not at its best, you may not have the means to put up your usual decorations, provide gifts, entertain, or even make the meals you have had in the past. Personal and workplace stress can be challenging, especially when we have societal expectations of holidays being this picture-perfect time of the year.
There is actually even a date for that – when things get too overwhelming, employees mentally check out for the holidays on the 18th of December. A study by Peakon’s HR analytics group showed that up to 57 % of workers admitted they had checked out by this date. In the midst of all the hustle, it can feel impossible to effectively manage all personal and professional responsibilities without the effect on your mental health and well-being.
Are there any ways we can help ourselves during this period? Definitely yes.
// Use your calendar to plan and prioritize – be realistic about what you can accomplish in that time and prioritize accordingly.
// Know your non-negotiables – the routines or activities that keep you grounded.
// Be transparent with colleagues and family members about your priorities – communicate.
// Make sure there are pauses in your calendar – you will not be productive all the time, so take time to rest.
// Aim to be present. Holidays will come and go. Notice your emotions, name them – try to enjoy the simple moments.
One of the mentioned stressors of this season is social and family commitments. How can we support ourselves in this area?
🌱 You can start by giving yourself space to acknowledge that it does not have to be easy and holidays are not always a joyful experience because they can bring anger, sadness, anxiety and many other complex emotions. Allow yourself to feel the spectrum of it.
🌱 Regarding social commitments, be it office parties or gatherings with friends, think (in advance) about the boundaries you would like to keep. Remember, you can always leave the party if you do not like it. Also, you do not have to socialize and talk with every person at the party. Or if you feel like not going – do not go altogether, reminding yourself that you value your mental well-being more.
Yet, it is beneficial to note the difference between not wanting to go and wanting to go but feeling anxious about it. If it is anxiety, perhaps inner tools may help. Try breathing exercises, calming physical exercises, meditation, or journaling before going to the party, and look at it as an experiment, where you will see that you can do it even while feeling anxious.
🌱 Talking about family gatherings, remind yourself that they are not the time to fix anyone. Very likely, there will not be an opportunity to have an open conversation with someone because of all the buzz around. It can be helpful to take a mental note – that you do not have to fix anything.
If it becomes too hard, you can always take a pause, go for a walk, or sit calmly and not engage in the conversations. For example, if you are physically visiting your family, you can bring something from your world, such as a book or anything else that could calm you down.
🌱 One of the things that perhaps we don’t talk about enough is that we could even feel more lonely during the holidays. It could be the case that we are spending holidays alone, believing everyone else is having fun out there. Or even if we are around family, we can still feel lonely, especially if we have complicated relationships with our family members. Try not to determine your life for those two days as a representation of it all. While there is no simple answer to how to deal with complex topics like this, awareness of your authentic emotions or positive self-talk could be the first steps in taking care of yourself during this time.