This season of celebrating also comes with lots of stress for many people.
But despite the long to-do list and mandatory get-togethers, it is possible to maintain a healthy mind, according to experts at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.
“Stress is an inevitable part of life and so the first thing people can do is focus on their wellness, which is really about accepting that stress can be something we can get through with the right supports,” said Kelly Moore, director of the Center for Psychological Services at Rutgers Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology.
“Finding routine and predictability in your life is a great way to alleviate stress,” Moore added in a university news release. “Watching reruns of shows you enjoyed, having a cup of tea every day or creating a playlist of songs that bring you peace are just some ways to alleviate stress.”
For many people, financial stressors dampen their holiday cheer. Others may fear possible exposure to COVID-19 if they join in holiday festivities.
“As social obligations and activities increase, so do stress levels. Some people find interacting with family members or colleagues stressful, while others may be grieving the loss of a loved one,” said Keith Stowell, chief medical officer at Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care.
“Watch out for difficulty sleeping and changes in appetite, as well as emotional changes, such as sadness, anxiety, irritability and impatience,” Stowell said. “If you have existing mental health problems, are they getting worse?”
If you have a young person in your life you're concerned about, watch for signs of increased clinginess or withdrawal from activities they previously enjoyed. Look at your child's phone or tablet occasionally to get a sense of the content they're consuming, Moore suggested.
Talk to a loved one of any age about your concerns if you're worried they may be overwhelmed, Stowell said. Be nonjudgmental and offer help if you're able to. Suggest helping with tasks that can be social, like wrapping presents together or cooking for a family meal. Then you're relieving stress together.
Moore said, “Don't be afraid to ask, and when you do ask, point out what you are noticing that may help them to see that others do look out for them and care for them. If someone doesn't want to talk, let them know you are someone they can talk to when they are ready. And then, actually listen!”
Sometimes all people need is someone to listen without judgment, Moore added.
Stowell offered some additional ideas for reducing stress, including physical activity, sleep and meditation.
Make time to do something that brings you joy, he said. If needed, therapy can also be helpful.
“Connecting with others — whether it is via text, phone or in person — to share challenges is a great way to relieve stress,” Stowell said. “Remember to give yourself a break: You don't have to adhere to your diet 100 percent of the time or find the 'perfect' gift for someone.”
The U.S. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health has more on stress.
SOURCE: Rutgers University—New Brunswick, news release, Dec. 12, 2022