10 Ways to Manage Holiday Stress

| Health and Wellness

two people wrapping a gift


The holiday season has arrived, but like so many other things about 2020, it’s very different than usual. Physical distancing is still a fact of life in many parts of Canada. For many of us, that means fewer or no parties, holiday dinners, family outings, concerts or trips to the shopping mall. Some of miss the festivities, while others may welcome a break from the usual holiday hoopla. Whichever camp you fall into, we all have one thing in common: our calendars may be less crowded this year, but that doesn’t mean we’re free of stress.

In a more typical year, common sources of holiday stress include:

  • Too many activities and commitments
  • Overindulging in food and drink at holiday gatherings
  • Buying and giving gifts
  • Spending too much money
  • Too much family togetherness
  • Negative emotions such as loneliness, sadness or grief
  • Disrupted sleep, exercise and eating schedules

Despite having fewer activities to attend this year, you may still feel stressed out, because of the holidays, the pandemic or both. Perhaps you’ve been experiencing some of the following – and if so, you’re certainly not alone.

  • Overeating at home to ease anxiety or boredom
  • Eating unhealthy “comfort foods” or junk food too often
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Excessive online shopping
  • Feeling worried, anxious, lonely, depressed or afraid
  • Feeling pressure to make the holidays special, uphold traditions or compensate for the lack of festivities

Stress-busting strategies

It’s important to find healthy ways to handle stress. These 10 stress busters can ease the pressure and help you feel better in body and mind.

  1. Get the support you need. If you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed or depressed, don’t struggle alone. Reach out to a friend or family member for help, or access free mental health support (including virtual care) in your area. You can also check out our list of free online resources. (In an emergency, call 9-1-1 or go to your nearest emergency department.)
  2. Practise saying “no.” Sometimes we make things harder for ourselves by taking on too many tasks and responsibilities. This is especially true for women, who are often socialized to be nurturing and supportive. It’s healthy to set boundaries and assert yourself. If saying yes means more stress, don’t do it.
  3. Make time for self-care. Self-care isn’t an indulgence – it encompasses all the things we do to protect or improve our physical and mental health, including ideas on this list. This holiday season, avoid people and situations that cause stress. Do things you enjoy, such as reading a good book, spending time on a hobby, or reconnecting with a friend.
  4. Practise mindfulness and meditation. More than just trendy buzzwords, mindfulness and meditation can help you calm your mind and feel more engaged in the present, rather than worrying about the future. Mindfulness and meditation offer health benefits, too.
  5. Exercise regularly. Physical activity is good for your body and it’s an excellent mood booster. Adults of all ages should aim for 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity exercise per week. (Stuck inside for the winter? Read our tips for creating a home gym.) Consult your physician before starting or modifying an exercise routine.
  6. Eat a nutritious diet. There’s a strong connection between food and mood, and you can use that to your advantage. Follow the recommendations in Canada’s Food Guide. Eat whole foods rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Avoid foods high in salt, sugar and saturated fats.
  7. Limit your alcohol intake. In May, a study conducted by Nanos for the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction found that one in five Canadians staying at home more because of the pandemic were drinking more alcohol than they did before, both in terms of frequency and quantity. The most common reasons? Stress and boredom. Learn about safe alcohol consumption.
  8. Get restful sleep. Even before the pandemic, one in three Canadians was sleep-deprived, and now COVID-19 is keeping us up at night or giving us bizarre dreams. You can improve your chances of getting decent shut-eye with strategies for better sleep.
  9. Stick to a budget. Setting a dollar limit for gifts will help prevent overspending (and the stress of a sky-high credit card bill in January). If you’ve had a financial setback this year, consider scaling back on gifts. If you’re worried that family and friends will be disappointed, just tell them in advance you’re not spending much this year. They might already be thinking the same thing.
  10. Focus on the positive. This has been a challenging year, no doubt about that, but many good things also came out of it, including countless moments of kindness and generosity. Cultivating a sense of gratitude can help us get through hard times.

Bayshore Home Health offers a wide range of home care services to help Canadians live independently for as long as possible. Contact us at 1-877-289-3997 for details.