Depression and Stress During the Holidays

November 17, 2010 at 12:38 pm  •  Posted in Stress Management by  •  0 Comments

By Maribel Quiala, MSW, LCSW

Peace, Joy and many guests (sometimes unwelcome guests) like Depression and Stress, which can affect your health and ruin your holidays. Planning ahead, being realistic and seeking Help (support) in time of need can help rid depression and stress. Some people will find themselves in a whirlwind of demands – work, family, shopping, cleaning, care giving for elderly or kids on school break, cooking, parties, funerals, visiting the sick, studying and many other activities. So much for peace, joy and the pursuit of happiness, right?

However, some simple guidelines can minimize and help alleviate the depression and stress that often are part of the holiday season. You may even end up enjoying the holiday more than you ever thought you could!

Trigger points

Holiday depression and stress are often the result of three predominate trigger points. Understanding these trigger points can help us plan ahead on how to accommodate them.


Our financial situation can cause stress at any time of the year (just like our relationships). However, in a sluggish economy, overspending during the holidays on gifts, clothing, travel, food, and entertainment can increase stress as we try to make ends meet while ensuring that everyone on our gift list is Happy.


Our relationships can cause conflict, stress and dysfunction at any time. But tensions are heightened during the holidays. Family and marital conflict and misunderstanding can intensify. With so many needs to accommodate, specifically with family from out of town that we have not seen in a while, we may feel overwhelmed. On the other hand, if we are facing the holidays without loved ones or family, we may find ourselves especially lonely, sad or depressed

Physical Demands

Partying, cooking and shopping can exhaust us. Feeling exhausted increases stress levels. Sleep and exercise are very healing, curing and can relieve stress; however, we are usually sleep deprived during holidays, as our physical demands are heighten due to the extra demands, as well as overeating and drinking, which are all ingredients for holidays illness.

11 steps to alleviate

Holiday stress – We must make a conscious effort to help prevent normal holiday depression from escalating into chronic depression. When stress is at it peak we need to Stop and re-group. Here are some tips:

Budget – Before going shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend on gifts. Stick to your budget. If you do not, then you could feel anxious and tense and upset for months afterwards as you struggle to

pay off the debt. Homemade gifts are awesome. Or donate your time, visit someone in the hospital or a nursing home, happiness nor friendship cannot be bought via a material item.

Plan – Plan ahead, and set a schedule for shopping, cooking, visiting friends and family, partying, exercising, etc. Allow extra time for travel so that when you’re sitting in traffic you do not increase your anxiety level and stress out.

Say NO – Learn to say no. NO to the things you truly do not want to engage in. NO to the activities you have no desire in participating in. NO to those family members or so-called friends you truly do not want to visit with. Say Yes to the things and activities that truly fill your spirit and soul.

Stick to your healthy eating habits – Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you do not go overboard on sweets, alcohol, sodas and carbs. Remember portion control. Read labels to find out just how many calories are in the specific product you decide to buy and consume. Walk and schedule time for physical activity. Go dancing!

Take a break – Make some time for yourself, 10-15 minutes alone, for private meditation, without any distractions. It will refresh you for the rest of the day. Go to a quite place for a few moments of solitude, with God, the Universe, your creator, the stars, Heaven, whatever you believe in. Find something that calms you, inhale all the good the universe has in store for you and exhale all the toxins in your life.

Be aware of your feeling – It is alright to cry or to express your feelings. You do not have to be Happy simply because it is the holiday season. Acknowledge your feelings. It is normal to grieve the loss of a parent during the holidays, the loss of a partner, the loss of employment, a friend’s recent cancer diagnosis. Remember – this too shall pass.

Change is good – Be realistic, as families move and grow, traditions often move and grow with them. Stick to the things you can and want to do. Be creative with the traditions you cannot engage in as a family unit any longer because of long distance or other issues. Use the high-tech ability of Facebook, twitter or simply the traditional post office method of mailing a card, for example in connecting with an elderly relative or friend without a computer.

Seek help – Get support if you’re feeling sad or isolated – from family members, friends, community, social services agencies or your religious group. Getting involved and helping others always brightens our spirits and creates good Chi. On the journey toward helping others you’ll also make new friends.

Resolutions – Change begins with our every waking moment; we do not need to wait until a particular day during the holiday session to make all the life-altering changes or to deal with past issues. Stop and be realistic about your resolutions, as they can set us up for failure if they are unrealistic. Set attainable short-term goals with a reasonable time frame.

For example, you do not need to loss 40 pounds in one week – you can start by taking small do-able steps, such as starting a walking club with your neighbor and changing your eating habits. Remember the Journey of a thousand miles starts with one step.

Things might go wrong – Forget about perfection. Expect and accept imperfections. Things might go wrong but you do not have to go with them

Seek professional help – Sometimes we need the assistance of a professional to help us navigate a difficult situation. If you find that you are feeling extremely sad, angry, anxious, unable to sleep, irritable, hopeless, helpless, unable to face the day to day activities, unable to cope, constantly arguing, isolated, and any of these are exhibited over several weeks, please talk to someone. Seek the assistance of your doctor – if you do not have a doctor, go to the family health care center in your neighborhood as you could be experiencing depression.

Acceptance – Accept that things are not always going to go as planned. One way to minimize holiday depression and stress is acknowledging that the holidays can and will trigger depression and stress. Accept that things, events and people are not always going to go as you planned. Take steps to proactively manage your depression and stress during the holidays. You might truly enjoy and be grateful for this holiday session this year – more than you imagine.


To find a social worker in your area, please click here.

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