Minimize Holiday Stress

Here’s how to have a better time this season

You’re feeling impatient, worried and cranky – and maybe even depressed. Welcome to the holiday season.

For many of us, the first signs of stress emerge around Halloween, when stores start stocking shelves with holiday decorations. The stress factor only intensifies through November and December, interfering with sleep patterns and appetites, and leading to muscle tension, headache, fatigue and stomach aches. If only there were a way to minimize holiday stress, we’d feel so much better.

The health educators at Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Consumer Health Information offer their suggestions for a happy, healthy holiday season:

Take time to consider what the holidays mean to you. What are your values? Are you adhering to them? Think about the traditions and rituals that you practice. Which ones do you enjoy? Sometimes the simplest rituals are the most meaningful. It's OK to re-evaluate past traditions and let go.

  • Simplify. Set a holiday budget, and don’t equate love with cost and quantity of gifts. If you plan to entertain, think simple, and focus on the purpose of the get-together.
  • Be flexible and willing to let go of the way things "should be." The house does not have to be elaborately decorated every year; nor is it realistic to celebrate with everyone on the actual holiday. Plan to visit some friends and family soon after the holidays.
  • Don't let your "to-do" list control you. Invest your energies wisely. Set priorities, let go of impossible goals and don't try to complete everything at once.
  • Take care of yourself. Exercise, get adequate sleep and eat regular meals. Plan pleasurable activities each day, practice relaxation exercises (stretching, deep breathing, yoga, meditation) and spend time with supportive people.

For some, the holidays can be a depressing time. Feelings of sadness, loneliness and anger can intensify when contrasted with the expected joy. Here are ways to cope with holiday depression:

  • If there has been a recent loss, consider something different, such as taking a vacation with a family member or friend.
  • Spend time with people who care about you. Do not isolate yourself. If you feel there is no one available, then reach out to others in need.
  • Attend a religious service, concert or community gathering.
  • Allow yourself some time to reflect on your losses, and feel the sadness and loneliness.
  • Family and friends may be concerned; let them know what you need from them.
  • Get help if you need it. Talk to your doctor, a mental health professional, or clergy.
  • Make plans for after the New Year to help avoid the post-holiday let-down.

To make an online gift supporting Cleveland Clinic, visit our secure giving site or call Institutional Relations and Development at 216.444.1245 or toll-free at 800.223.2273, ext. 41245.

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