Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital
Stress and the Holidays
It’s the holiday season! For many, this is a time of happiness, family and fun.
However, the holidays can also be stressful. Holidays may bring up painful memories or we may feel sad about loved ones who are not with us. We might stress over tight finances or obligations to spend time with others. Some feel guilty they don’t have “the holiday spirit” and wish the season would just hurry up and be over.
There are healthy ways to cope with the holidays and manage the stress during this time of year. Here are some things all of us can do to keep things manageable.
· Be realistic about social commitments. It is okay to politely decline an invitation to the holiday party or other social events. Decide which are important to you and which are optional.
· Be realistic about time and goals. Don’t try to do more than is humanly possible. Try to take care of some holiday tasks early, rather than waiting for the last minute.
· Be realistic about money. Overspending just leads to more stress. Make a budget and stick to it. Remember, the simple gifts are often the most meaningful.
· If the holidays bring up difficult memories or feelings, accept them. Trying to “get rid” of memories or feelings by drinking, using drugs or isolating often increases suffering. Acknowledge and accept the feeling, but don’t dwell on it. Instead, focus on things you can control in the present.
· Practice an “attitude of gratitude”. Don’t overlook the small blessings and positives in your life by dwelling on stuff you can’t control or which makes you sad.
· Take a walk! Physical activity is a great stress-buster.
· Do self-maintenance! Treat yourself with kindness by getting enough sleep, choosing healthy foods, limiting caffeine and alcohol, and spending time with positive people. Make time to relax and enjoy recreational activities.
Finally, be willing to ask for help. Sometimes normal stress crosses over to emotional problems like depression or anxiety. These problems are highly treatable if people are willing to accept help. VA offers support through the TIDES program (573-814-6277), Primary Care-Mental Health Integration (573-814-3958 or 573-814-3919), Behavior Health (573-814-6480), and 24/7 Crisis Line (1-800-273-TALK).
For more information about managing holiday stress, visit www.prevention.va.gov