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Wellness Watch - Holiday Stress

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 43.8 million Americans experience mental illness in a given year, and depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide.  Unfortunately, the holiday season can intensify depression and stress for many people.

The good news about holiday stress is that it’s predictable. You know when the holidays begin and end, and you know what kind of stressors you may have to deal with.

Here are some tips to help you avoid or reduce stress during the holidays.

  • Set Priorities - There are so many things going on during the holidays, you simply can’t participate in all of them. Choose the activities and traditions that mean the most to you, and realize it’s okay to skip the others.
  • Acknowledge Your Feelings - You can’t force yourself to be happy. We often associate the holidays with lost love ones or loneliness. It’s okay to express those feelings. Just try not to let them overwhelm you.
  • Have Fun - Let yourself experience the season with the excitement you expressed as a child. If you love baking, make that a priority. If Christmas music puts you in a good mood, find a caroling group or attend holiday concerts. Be sure you do things that bring you joy.
  • Stick to a Budget - Financial stress can be especially acute during the holidays, but money shouldn’t be the focus of the season. Set a reasonable budget, and don’t feel guilty about what you can’t afford. Search for meaningful activities and gifts that don’t cost a lot. 
  • Be Generous - Doing something for another person, expecting nothing in return, can help you feel good physically and emotionally. You don’t have to spend money. Simply giving of your time and talent to others can give you a great boost.
  • Don’t Abandon Healthy Habits - Sure, all the great food is one of the best things about the holidays. And there are plenty of get-togethers where alcohol is served. You can still enjoy those meals and parties, just don’t overdo it. Know your weaknesses, and try to avoid them. Remember, regular exercise is always good for your mind and body.
  • Don’t Isolate Yourself - If you feel the holiday blues coming on, withdrawing from friends and family may only make you feel worse and send you into a downward spiral of depression. Enjoy the company of loved ones.
  • Take a Breather - The holidays can get hectic in a hurry. Sometimes, you may simply need a few minutes alone to calm down and clear your mind. Maybe it’s a walk around the block, reading a chapter in a good book, meditation or prayer. Enjoy whatever “you time” works best for you.
  • Seek Professional Help - Don’t ever be afraid or embarrassed to seek professional help. If you’re feeling sad, anxious, irritable or hopeless, talk to your doctor or reach out to a mental health profession.

Stress can become overwhelming any time of year, and you never know when depression may affect you. Phoebe Behavioral Health provides year-round treatment for adults and adolescents in a compassionate, caring and supportive environment. Learn more about our outpatient and inpatient services here:

The National Alliance on Mental Illness has many resources to help people experiencing mental illness and to educate anyone on mental illness. Visit their website at

The American Psychological Association has more advice for dealing with holiday stress at