Valley health expert gives tips on reducing holiday stress
Dec 11, 2023, 4:35 AM
PHOENIX — The holidays are here and with that can come a certain level of stress. A Valley health expert has tips to take pressure off yourself and loved ones.
Dr. Holly Henden with Dignity Health Arizona says protecting your mental health is key and part of the concern comes from seasonal depression.
“There’s loneliness, there’s grief, there’s sadness, thoughts of loss,” Henden said. “And then sometimes there’s just depression and anxiety.”
But stress can also come from holiday-specific expectations people experience and impose on loved ones.
Often, people are expected to show up to holiday events, be cheerful and buy gifts. But Henden explains sometimes we just aren’t up to it, and insecurity over that can cause a cycle of increasing stress.
She also recommends some things people can do to help them feel more secure when navigating holiday chaos:
• Set time limits for yourself.
• Say no to things you don’t want to or can’t do.
• Go out with an “escape plan” to quickly leave stressful situations.
“So, I think the first thing to remember for people struggling in that way is that it’s okay to feel bad, depressed or not cheerful all the time,” Henden said.
She also recommends taking a break from social media during the holiday season if that’s something that feels right for you.
When it comes to those holiday expectations of gifts or magnificence, it can also be important to dial those back and set your expectations in-line with reality.
“Be gentle with yourself, have self-compassion,” Henden said. “In the same way that we have compassion for other people who are struggling a lot of times, we don’t find that same compassion for ourselves.”
Also, make sure to keep in touch with your doctors and mental health professionals amid all the events and activities.
She says to check in on loved ones and those around us, too. But Henden emphasizes doing that on their terms and consider how they want to be approached.
She says, “Asking that person, ‘What is it that you want right now? What is it that you need? What would be helpful for you?’ is the first thing.”
And lastly, for all of us, she says gratitude can be the anecdote to stress.
“Take a moment to check in with yourself, and really kind of reflect on the things that you are grateful for,” Henden said. “Some people keep a gratitude journal.”