Ways to Cope With Holiday Stress

Ways to Cope With Holiday Stress

EAST LANSING - With holidays, often come expectations. Every year around this time, thousands of Americans run frantically to meet the demands the holiday presents. Whether it is shopping, cleaning, or entertaining, this is the time where people are generally expected to be in good holiday cheer despite the stress factors the season brings.

And when those holiday expectations cannot be met, whether emotionally or financially, it often creates a spinning spiral of anxiety, stress, depression, and even suicide.

According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, each year, more than 36,000 people take their own lives. In addition, more than 374,000 are treated in emergency departments for self-inflicted injuries generally caused by stress, depression, and anxiety. With those factors on the rise around the holiday season here are a few specific reasons and ways to cope with common seasonal stress related problems during this time of year.

People are spending, drinking, and eating too much:

According to an article in Mayo Clinic, it is during the holidays where various parties and gift-giving occasions may lead people to eat, drink, and spend in excess. From rich deserts and alcohol to overspending and racking up debt for gifts, many people begin then deal with the unwanted stress due to holiday behavior. And often times, people deal with the consequences (debt, weight gain, and memories of embarrassing behavior) well after the season is over, which often to stress and depression.

Ways to cope:

Set yourself to a budget, and don't go over it. It may be hard to resist spending more for that precious nephew you adore, but if it's going to cost you your overall health and mental stability, it may be a good idea to find something more affordable. And that goes with holiday treats as well. Plan ahead by being aware of your triggers, and do what you can do to have some healthy food at hand for each meal. Be aware of your intake, and practice mindful eating.

Too much togetherness/not enough togetherness:

During this time, many big extended families come together. While spending hours on hours with a close-knit family often times is seen as a joyous experience, for many this can lead to anxiety, as many find it hard to maintain a healthy balance between bonding and alone time. On the contrary, for those who do not family or friends to gather around during this time can lead people into an isolated depression.

Ways to cope:

With family and friends, it’s important to be aware of personal limitations. Think back to previous years and try to pinpoint how much togetherness you and your family can take before feeling negative stress. This can often be solved with limiting the amount of parties you attend or throw. And for those who have the opposite problem and suffer holiday loneliness, consider inviting a group of friends to your home or even volunteering to help those less fortunate than yourself. Often times, these experiences can help shift focus on what people have rather than what they lack.

Winter Blues:

Seasonal affective disorder, commonly known as SAD or winter blues is a seasonal depression associated with the lack of sunshine transmitted in the winter time.

Some of the symptoms of SAD include tiredness or low energy, problems getting along with other people, weight gain, and trouble concentrating.

“Because in winter, there’s less light outside and because it's colder, we spend less time outdoors," said Dr. Yan who is an Assistant Psychology Professor at Michigan State University. "And when we spend more time indoors, the indoor light isn’t as bright as outdoor so this light deficiency can cause theses symptoms.”

Ways to cope:

“The most common strategy for this condition is to use bright light therapy," said Yan. “There is this bright light box you can put in your bedroom, or office and that light box can reproduce light.”

But even though the disorder causes depression like symptoms, the sadness will not last forever.

“If winter is here, spring is not far away so there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Just be optimistic," Yan continued.

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