Almost everyone experiences additional stress during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season: there are meals to cook, gifts to find, social gatherings to attend and family obligations to meet. Plus, many of us also have heightened stress levels this year due to feelings of anxiety or worry related to recent natural disasters and tragedies in the news.

During this busy time of year, what can individuals do to successfully cope with these feelings and maintain their health and wellbeing? Here are some simple strategies anyone can use to help manage holiday-related stress and anxiety, maintain a healthy outlook and recognize opportunities for enjoyment:

• Unplug. Stay present, calm, and positive during this year’s holidays by building some “down time” into your day during which you switch off your mobile device, computer and television. Not only will this help you relax and recharge, but you will be able to better focus on the people and things around you.

• Be realistic. The holidays are about spending time with the people you care about and enjoying what you have. Nothing has to be perfect, and it’s okay to say “no” if you’re feeling like you have too much on your plate.

• Set reasonable goals that fit your schedule and budget. Make healthy spending decisions and prioritize ways to celebrate that don’t cost money. Think about what you really want and need to do this holiday season and don’t allow social expectations to pressure you into overspending or spreading yourself too thin.

• Put your health first. Enjoy the holiday festivities, but avoid overindulging in food, alcohol or other substances that could cause serious health problems for you and your loved ones. Maintaining your regular healthy eating, exercising and sleep habits will help support your overall wellbeing.

• Set healthy boundaries. When balancing demands from family, work and friends, make it easier on yourself by managing expectations and suggesting compromises that better fit your needs. Make time for yourself to rest and recharge. Remember it’s OK to say “no” or schedule a rain check if you’re feeling overbooked and overstressed. 

• Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you’re feeling overwhelmed this holiday season,
remember there are people out there who are ready and available to help. There is no shame in seeking assistance, whether it’s from a mental health provider, family member or friend. If you or someone you know needs immediate help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).


Rich Crislip, LCSW, is director of behavioral health integration at OptumCare Arizona.