Eight Ways to Manage Holiday Stress

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The holidays are right around the corner. For most people, this is a time of cheer and celebration, a time to be with loved ones. However, many people actually find that holidays are stressful.

According to a 2022 poll from the American Psychological Association, 31% of Americans reported feeling stressed about the holidays. This represented a 9% jump from the year prior.

The stress of the holidays can be due to everything from familial strife to the economic strain of buying gifts.

If you are someone who finds the holidays stressful don’t worry. In this article, we’ll go over some ways to manage holiday stress.

Why Do People Feel Stress and Anxiety During the Holidays?

The holiday season, often perceived as a time of joy and celebration, can paradoxically be a challenging period for mental health. People during this time are often dealing with several factors at once which can enhance the stress of the holidays.

Here are some of the factors that can make holidays stressful:

  • Financial Strain — The holidays are often a time of increased financial strain as people feel the need to spend money on presents and travel. This can be a significant source of stress and anxiety for many, especially those already struggling with their finances. Fifty percent of respondents cited financial strain as a reason for holiday stress.
  • Overwhelming Social Commitments — The holiday season is typically filled with social events and obligations. For introverts or those with social anxiety, this can be mentally taxing.
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) — Some people are prone to a condition in which lack of sunlight can lead to a type of depression known as SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder can exacerbate feelings of stress and anxiety during the holidays.
  • Family Dynamics — Some people don’t have the best relationships with their families. Family gatherings can revive old tensions and create a stressful environment. This can be especially an issue if there are political differences and politics comes up as a topic of discussion. Nineteen percent of respondents cited family dynamics as a factor for holiday stress.
  • Disruption of Routine — The holidays can disrupt regular routines related to diet, exercise, and sleep. This disruption can negatively impact mental health, as routines often provide a sense of stability and control.
  • Reflection and Loneliness — The end of the year often prompts reflection on personal life and achievements. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy or loneliness, especially for those who are isolated or have experienced significant changes or losses during the year. Social media can also contribute to feelings of loneliness. 

As you can see, the holidays can be quite stressful. However, it’s important to not let this stress drive you to cope in unhealthy ways. Managing your stress levels and emotional health should be a top priority. 

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The Unhealthy Ways We Deal With Stress

People might engage in a range of unhealthy coping mechanisms to manage holiday stress. One of the most prominent of these is substance abuse.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly a million people have died of drug-related deaths since 1999.

Many turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to escape or numb the stress of the holidays. While this might provide temporary relief, it can lead to dependency, worsen mental health, and create additional problems in one’s personal and professional life.

Some other ways people manage holiday stress include:

  • Stress-eating
  • Excessive caffeine consumption
  • Smoking
  • Procrastination
  • Social withdrawal
  • Neglecting self-care – not sleeping or exercising enough
  • Overworking
  • Engaging in risk-seeking behavior (ex: reckless driving, unsafe sex, etc)

To effectively manage holiday stress, it’s important to recognize these unhealthy patterns and seek healthier alternatives.

Eight Ways to Manage Holiday Stress

Here are eight strategies to manage holiday stress and anxiety levels during the holidays:

  • Set Realistic Expectations — Acknowledge that it’s impossible to have a perfect holiday. Set achievable goals for yourself, whether it’s related to holiday preparations, spending, or social commitments. Accepting imperfections can greatly reduce stress.
  • Create a Budget — Financial worries are a major source of holiday stress. Plan a budget for gifts, food, and travel, and stick to it. This can help prevent financial strain and the stress that comes with overspending.
  • Schedule Downtime — Make sure to schedule time for relaxation and self-care. This can include reading, taking a bath, meditating, or any activity that helps you unwind. Downtime is essential for recharging your batteries.
  • Exercise Regularly — Physical activity is a proven stress reducer. Maintain or start a regular exercise routine during the holidays. Even a daily walk can help clear your mind and reduce anxiety.
  • Limit Commitments — It’s okay to say no. You don’t have to attend every social event or meet every demand placed on you. Prioritize your commitments and attend only those that are most important to you.
  • Seek Support — Talk about your feelings with friends or family, if needed. Sharing your concerns and feelings can lighten the burden and provide you with support and new perspectives.
  • Maintain Healthy Habits — Try to stick to your regular eating and sleeping routines as much as possible. Overindulgence can add to stress and guilt. Eating healthily and getting enough sleep can help maintain your energy and mood.
  • Practice Mindfulness or Relaxation Techniques — Engage in activities that focus your mind and calm your body, such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises. These practices can help manage stress and improve your overall mental well-being.

Remember: if you find the stress of the holidays too much to handle even after following these tips, professional addiction treatment is always available.

What to Do When the Holidays Get Stressful

If the stress of the holidays is getting to you and you can’t manage it in a healthy way, it may be time to consider professional treatment. A treatment center can provide the necessary holiday stress management you need to navigate through this challenging period.

Treatment centers have trained mental health professionals who understand the complexities of stress and anxiety. They can offer personalized guidance and coping strategies tailored to your specific needs.

Centers also provide a structured environment that can be immensely helpful in managing holiday stress. This structure often includes therapy sessions, group support, and activities designed to reduce anxiety and improve mental health.

Attending a treatment center allows you to take a break from the daily stressors and triggers of the holiday season. This can provide you with the space and time needed to focus on your mental health without the pressures of your usual environment.

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Holiday Stress Treatment at SCBH

Stress causes people to engage in substance abuse. If you or a loved one are seeking treatment for addiction, South Coast Behavioral Health is here to help. The first step in treating addiction is a medical detox. This means using drugs to manage withdrawal symptoms.

Our medical detox program in California is staffed by caring and compassionate professionals who can provide you with medications to manage your withdrawal symptoms.

At South Coast, we take pride in offering care that is closely tailored to specific issues. To that end, we offer gender-specific detox programs, with medical detox for men in Irvine, CA, and medical detox for women in Huntington Beach, CA.

After detoxing, proper treatment can begin.

Treatment for substance abuse takes place along an entire spectrum of care. Along that entire spectrum are various behavioral therapies, support groups, and the use of medically-assisted treatment (MAT).

These levels of treatment are, in order, as follows:

Residential Treatment in California

After successfully completing medical detox, you’ll receive inpatient treatment in Orange County California. There, you’ll receive medically-assisted treatment and dual diagnosis treatment to deal with any cravings or co-occurring mental health issues you may be battling.

We also offer residential treatment facilities in Costa Mesa, Irvine, and Huntington Beach for those who desire gender-specific treatment. There, patients get round-the-clock medical attention and monitoring while living at the institution full-time.

In addition to individual and group counseling and medication management, you’ll also have access to leisure activities and family support services.

Partial Hospitalization in California

Most clients start substance abuse treatment with South Coast in our residential treatment program. After completing that, many desire something that still provides structure and support, but with extra space and time to oneself. For that, we offer Partial Hospitalization in Newport Beach.

A step down from inpatient care but with more structure than conventional outpatient programs, partial hospitalization offers a good balance for those looking to ease back into normal life. Clients can receive care five to seven days a week for a number of hours each day, returning back to their homes in the evening.

This way, they can recover without putting their daily lives completely on hold, receiving intense therapeutic interventions like group and individual therapy, skill development, and medication management as necessary.

Intensive Outpatient Treatment in California

For those leaving inpatient residential treatment or partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient programs (IOP) are yet another gradual step forward on the road to recovery.

With a focus on group therapy, individual counseling, and education, clients undergoing Intensive Outpatient Treatment in Newport Beach can meet three to five days a week. Each session lasts three hours.

This level of care requires the least amount of attendance at a facility.

Start Today

Contact us today for tips for managing holiday stress. If you or a loved one are struggling with controlling stress levels and managing addiction but wonder how long addiction treatment takes or have other questions, call us at 866-881-1184. Our highly qualified staff will be happy to help give you an idea of what to expect from your addiction recovery timeline, verify your insurance, and assist with any other questions you may have. Managing stress and establishing healthy habits is easier with a mental health professional at your side. Your emotional health is very important so don’t neglect it! You can also follow us on social media! 

Pierce Willans
Kelly McIntyre
Medically Reviewed by Kelly McIntyre, MS, LMFT
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