Back to Learning Center

How to Handle Stress & Depression Around the Holiday Season
Andrea Teeters

By: Andrea Teeters on December 29th, 2022

Print/Save as PDF

How to Handle Stress & Depression Around the Holiday Season

The holiday season is a time for family and friends to come together, and this also can bring stress, anxiety, and even depression due to an array of demands. According to a survey, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that approximately 24% of people with a diagnosed mental illness find that the holidays make their condition “a lot” worse and 40% “somewhat” worse. Here are some tips to minimize the stress that it brings:

  1. Be Realistic - The holidays don’t have to be perfect or “just like your grandma” used to make it. As your circle of family and friends change and grow, you can change your traditions and activities too. Remember you are only one person, and you can only do so much. Be realistic about how much you can do, both physically and mentally.

  2. Budget Friendly - Before you even start to shop for presents and food for the big family meal, decide on how much you can spend and STICK to the plan. Buying presents for family and friends is enjoyable, but it is also important to pay your bills.

  3. Prioritize Exercise - The holidays can have you running around everywhere. Make sure to take the time to still get in your workout, even if it is shorter. Plan your exercise into your schedule and treat it like you would any other appointment or activity.


  4. Healthy Nutrition - Keep each meal in perspective and remember that going back for seconds of your grandma’s apple pie won’t make or break your eating plan or nutrition. However, multiple straight months of overindulging will. As a rule, try to eat healthy most of the time. One thing you can do if you are worried is to prepare a healthy snack before parties so that you don’t overindulge in sweets. It can be easy to forget to drink water during this busy time, but staying hydrated helps with making good food choices, consuming less sugary drinks, and keeping your body working efficiently.

  5. Good Night’s Sleep - Take the time to rest and get a good night’s sleep. Sleep impacts weight because you’re more likely to turn to sugary drinks to wake up, make unhealthy food choices, and may be too tired to exercise. In general, a lack of sleep causes the brain to make bad decisions according to WebMD. Sleep is like nutrition for the brain. Most people need between 7 and 9 hours each night.


  6. Volunteer - Helping others can have a profound effect on your mental health, and research has shown that volunteering can boost your mental and overall health. Visiting the elderly, helping at the local food bank, or walking a dog at a local kennel, are all great ways to contribute to your community and mental health this holiday season.


  7. Less is More - With a lot of activities going on around the holiday season, don’t feel that you have to commit to everything. It is okay to say NO! This will help to relieve some stress and give you some needed time for yourself.

  8. Plan Ahead - Get your calendar out and write down the days you will shop, bake, attend holiday activities, cook, and more. This will help with double booking activities, making multiple trips to the store, and keeping you on track so you are not rushing around at the last minute.

  9. Take a Break - If you’re feeling overwhelmed by everything on your checklist, remember to take a few deep breaths and take a break. Step away from everything and enjoy a cup of tea or coffee, a warm bath, take a walk, a catnap, or whatever may relax you.


  10. Professional Help - Holidays can sometimes trigger feelings of depression. These feelings can be especially hard. Acknowledge your feelings and, if possible, open up to others. It might make you feel better to share. If those feelings are still not going away, seek professional help. For immediate assistance, call the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline number: 9-8-8. Anyone who calls the national 9-8-8 phone number will immediately be connected to local call centers for safe, supportive and confidential mental health services. 

Holidays are meant to be a fun, enjoyable time with your family and friends. So, when the holiday anxiety or stress hits you, remember these tips.

A Practical Guide for the Family Caregiver

About Andrea Teeters

Andrea is currently the Fitness Director at Westminster Woods at Huntingdon. Previously, she was the Fitness Director at the Presbyterian Village of Hollidaysburg. She loves teaching group exercise classes with the residents and coming up with creative ways to engage residents in Fitness. Andrea has been in the Wellness field for almost two decades. She loves doing outdoor activities with her family, reading, running, traveling, and being with her church family. Andrea lives in Huntingdon, PA with her husband Mark, 3 children: Zoey, Liam, and Milo. She also has a cat named Leonardo DeCatrio, and beagle named Olaf.