8 Ways to Stay Calm & Manage Stress During the Holidays

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"Knowing what sets you off during the holidays is key to preventing the stress attached to them."
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Managing Holiday Stress

During the holidays, stress and anxiety are just as common as gift-giving and twinkly lights. A recent survey found that 88 percent of Americans felt the holiday season was not “the most wonderful time of the year,” but the most stressful.1 In fact, research over time shows that there is an uptick in stress-related cardiac events during the holiday season, with more people dying from heart attacks between December 25th and January 1st than at any other time of the year.2

Where does all this stress come from? And what can you do to prevent it? Read on to find out the top eight mental health tips for the holidays.

Stress, Anxiety and the Holidays

From money worries to family tension, there are many reasons why people stress during the holidays. Even children are not immune to holiday stress; changes in routine, excess sugar, and the constant hustle and bustle can be overwhelming. 

The top holiday stressors include: 

  • Overspending
  • High expectations
  • Tension with family members
  • Overeating
  • Routine disruption
  • Travel stress
  • Constant busyness
  • Crowds
  • Exhaustion
  • Loneliness 
  • Lack of sleep
  • Substance use

The stress of the holiday season can also exacerbate pre-existing mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. In a survey conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Health, around 64 percent of respondents reported that the season worsened their mental illness.3 In addition to the extra stress brought on by the holidays, the winter season also brings shorter periods of sunlight, which can trigger emotional changes. Sometimes stress and anxiety can feel heightened even before the holidays officially arrive as you begin to anticipate the season. It’s important during this time to acknowledge shifts in mood and emotions and prioritize self-care.

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How to Prevent Holiday Stress

While we all deal with stress and worry from time to time, our triggers tend to be personal. Maybe you’re dreading a certain family member who always pummels you with questions. Maybe you always end up under a pile of debt come January. Maybe your idea of torture is waiting in an endless line of cars to wait in yet another endless line at Macy’s. Knowing what sets you off during the holidays is key to preventing the stress attached to them.

Other steps you can take to de-stress before the holidays and help prevent it altogether include:

  • Try to keep your routines the same: With breaks from school and parties hosted by friends and family, it’s not always easy to keep up with routines when the timeline isn’t in your control. In the days leading up to the holidays, try to keep your routine intact and figure out ways to stick with it as much as possible when the holidays hit. This includes planning outings that aren’t too early or too late so you don’t skimp on sleep, and keeping up with regular mealtimes. Don’t forget about your exercise routine either, which is a great way to deal with stress.
  • Manage expectations: Be clear with friends and families on what they can and can’t expect from you. Many times, people overextend themselves in the spirit of the holidays only to end up depleted and/or resentful. This may include having to let kids know that they might not get every item on their holiday wish list or having to decline some holiday events.     
  • Practice mindfulness and meditation techniques: While practices like deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can help quell stress when it bubbles up, it’s never too early to get a headstart on building a solid mindfulness routine. In fact, just like exercise, mindfulness helps to strengthen the brain in the same way that squats and push-ups strengthen your muscles. The more you do it, the stronger you get. This will make it easier to use when stress does arise.

Read on for more  tips on how to keep your stress levels in check and calm anxiety when it shows up.

1. Plan Ahead

From baking to shopping to decorating to celebrating, the holidays are busy. If you don’t have a plan, you’re bound to feel overwhelmed until January rolls around. Make use of calendars and lists to stay on top of all the details so they don’t pile up in your head. 

Make a plan for the following ahead of time:

  • Gifts: Buy ahead and consider which gifts you can order online to avoid mall crowds.
  • Menus: What will you serve for family dinners or make for potlucks/parties you’re attending?
  • Grocery runs: Who will do them and on what days? This can help you avoid any last-minute scrambles.
  • Cleaning: Don’t get stuck cleaning up everyone’s messes. Devise a schedule of helpers to keep the house tidy and chaos-free. 

2. Stick to a Budget

Before you start filling your cart with gifts for the whole family, decide how much you can afford to spend after paying your usual expenses. Don’t forget to factor in all the money you’ll spend on food and drinks. If your budget is slim this year, feel free to get creative. Homemade gifts or thrifted gifts are just as thoughtful. And other family members may be relieved if you suggest a gift exchange in lieu of buying something for everyone. Set a budget and don’t be tempted to stray.

3. Set Boundaries & Learn to Say No

One effective way to prevent holiday stress is to establish some boundaries around your stressors. If you often do things you don’t want to do out of obligation to other family members, give yourself permission this year to say no. Limit the time you spend with problematic family members, or don’t spend time with them at all.  Set a boundary around how much you want to spend, who you want to see, and what you want to do in the weeks before the big events. It’s your holiday season too and it’s ok to visualize and plan for the kind of season you want to have. 

4. Try Homeopathic Anxiety Meds

Brillia is a clinically-proven non-prescription medication that offers a gentle and impactful route to reducing stress and anxiety without harsh, synthetic chemicals or harmful side effects. Unlike prescription drugs for anxiety, Brillia does not require a prescription or official diagnosis and you will not experience any harmful side effects like nausea, dry mouth, or nausea while adjusting to the medication. 

Containing antibodies to the S100B protein, a key regulator of many different intracellular and extracellular brain processes, Brillia helps reduce symptoms of anxiety, and stress at the very source of symptoms without affecting any other systems in the body or masking your personality in any way. It’s important to note that Brillia is not a quick fix for stress and anxiety. It will not work like a sedative to numb your feelings (potentially setting you up for rebound stress). Instead, Brillia is a gentle and cumulative product that provides a steady trickle of the active ingredient to your system to reduce symptoms like anxiety, irritability, and restlessness. To help make the holidays more manageable, you should take Brillia before the season begins. While some users notice a difference after the first two to three weeks of starting the medication, for others it can take longer. It’s important during this time that you find the right dose and be consistent with the medication to fully benefit. If you need help finding the right dose, review this guide, or contact our Customer Care team for more support. 

5. Take a Breather When Necessary

The busyness of the holidays can take a toll on you if you never take a time-out for yourself. This is especially true if you’re the kind of person who loves to shower others with holiday joy but never give back to yourself. From taking a walk while listening to your favorite podcast to booking a massage, whatever you consider to be “me time” should be held sacred during the busy holiday season.  

6. Agree to Disagree with Family Members

From old family riffs to new political differences, there is bound to be some tension when multiple families come together in one place. This year, try your best to avoid the drama where you can. Set a boundary about what you want to let in and walk away from situations (or people) who don’t respect the boundaries you’ve put in place. And try to be mindful that everyone is dealing with their own holiday stressors. If someone rubs you the wrong way, try not to take it personally.

7. Acknowledge & Talk Through Your Feelings

You don’t have to battle holiday stress alone. Turn to your spouse, sibling, trusted friend, or maybe even your therapist to talk through difficult feelings before they reach their boiling point. Sometimes, just verbalizing what’s bothering you to another person can help clarify the situation and help you create distance from the emotions involved. 

8. Keep Your Healthy Habits

It’s common to overindulge during the holidays. From too many cookies to too many late nights, it’s easy to let the holidays feel like a free-for-all. But too much sugar, too little sleep, and other unhealthy habits eventually catch up with you and send your stress levels through the roof. 

Prioritize your health during the holidays by:

Additional Ways to Cope

At Brillia, we recognize the value that prescription medication offers for many people. If you or your doctor feel that prescription anti-anxiety medication is the right path for you, always follow their advice. But we also see great value in approaching holiday stress and anxiety holistically. This means prioritizing whole-body health and lifestyle habits that support your physical and mental well-being. Our 5-Pillar methodology outlines science-backed solutions to managing stress and anxiety through behavioral changes, which include following a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep, controlling screen time, and practicing mindfulness. In many cases, these tools alone offer impactful ways to reduce holiday stress without medication, though if you need more support, you can take a medication like Brillia for as long as needed without ever having to increase your dose or becoming dependent on it. Find out more about how our holistic strategy works.

When to Contact a Professional

The holiday season is probably the busiest time of the year, but if you feel that you need professional support, it’s worth canceling some plans to make time for it. If you already have a therapist or counselor you work with, resist the urge to cancel any upcoming appointments because there’s too much going on. If you can’t find an in-person therapist to work with, explore telehealth services that may have more time slots available. If the holiday stress is taking a toll on your physical health, schedule a visit with your primary doctor immediately or head to urgent care. 

Find more tips on how to manage your mental health at the Brillia(nce) Resource Center and find out more about how Brillia can help you this holiday season.

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References: 1https://studyfinds.org/jingle-bell-crock-88-of-americans-feel-the-holiday-season-is-most-stressful-time-of-year/, 2https://newsroom.heart.org/news/heart-attack-deaths-more-likely-during-winter-holiday-season-than-any-other-time-of-year, 3https://lidowellnesscenter.com/mental-health-during-the-holidays/
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