S5 E7: Tracey Fuller on Stress Around The Holidays

Released December 1, 2022

The holiday season, while often associated with joy and celebration, can be a time of significant stress and emotional challenges for many individuals. In this podcast episode, we explore the various factors contributing to holiday stress and discuss strategies for coping with these difficulties from a behavioral health perspective.

One of the primary sources of holiday stress is the pressure to meet expectations and create perfect, magical experiences for loved ones. This can be particularly challenging for single parents, those facing financial hardships, and individuals coping with grief or loss. The current economic climate, with rising inflation rates, adds an additional layer of financial stress for many families.

For those separated from family, such as children in foster care or individuals in blended families, the holidays can be a time of intense loneliness and complex emotions. Navigating family dynamics and logistics can also contribute to increased stress levels.

The podcast emphasizes the importance of prioritizing self-care and setting boundaries during the holiday season. This may involve small actions like mindful breathing, engaging in activities that bring joy, and communicating one’s needs to others. Seeking support, whether through meaningful connections with loved ones or professional help, is also crucial for maintaining emotional well-being.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Acknowledge and validate holiday stress: Recognizing the emotional challenges that come with the holiday season is an essential first step in managing stress and maintaining mental well-being.
  2. Set realistic expectations: Pressuring oneself to create the perfect holiday experience can lead to increased stress and anxiety. Adjusting expectations and focusing on meaningful connections can help alleviate this pressure.  
  1. Practice self-care and set boundaries: Prioritizing self-care activities, such as mindful breathing, engaging in hobbies, and setting boundaries with others, is crucial for managing holiday stress and maintaining emotional well-being.
  2. Seek support for coping with grief and loss: The holidays can be particularly challenging for those grieving the loss of a loved one. Seeking support from friends, family, or mental health professionals can help individuals navigate these difficult emotions.  
  1. Navigate family dynamics and logistics mindfully: Blended families and those with strained family relationships may face additional stressors during the holidays. Approaching these situations with mindfulness and open communication can help reduce conflict and promote understanding.  
  1. Manage financial stress through planning and open communication: Financial stress is a common concern during the holidays, particularly in times of economic uncertainty. Planning ahead, setting budgets, and openly communicating with loved ones can help alleviate financial pressure.
  2. Find moments of joy and connection: Despite the challenges, the holidays offer opportunities for joy and meaningful connection. Focusing on these positive moments and practicing gratitude can help individuals maintain a balanced perspective.
  3. Seek professional help if needed: If holiday stress becomes overwhelming or unmanageable, seeking support from a mental health professional, such as a therapist or counselor, can provide additional coping strategies and support.

Throughout the episode, various behavioral health strategies are discussed, including the HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) method for checking in with oneself, practicing mindfulness and self-compassion, and reframing expectations. By acknowledging and validating the emotional challenges of the holiday season, individuals can work towards finding moments of joy and connection amidst the stress.