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Navigating the Holiday Season: Tips for Handling Stress and Loneliness 

Navigating the Holiday Season: Tips for Handling Stress and Loneliness 

A snowflake ornament sits in a Christmas treeThe holiday season is often seen as a time of joy, togetherness, and celebration. However, for many individuals, this period can also bring anxiety, loneliness, and sadness from feelings of isolation or stress. The pressure to meet high expectations, deadlines, financial burdens, and the absence of loved ones can all contribute to negative feelings and impact mental health. 

Loneliness can also be amplified during the holidays, as social comparisons, especially exacerbated by social media, can create a negative feedback loop of loneliness, social media browsing, repeat, comparison, repeat. For those who have lost loved ones or are separated from family and friends, the holiday season can be a painful reminder of their absence. 

Unrealistic expectations, social obligations, and increasingly expensive gift prices mean even if you are not feeling isolated during the holidays, the demands of the season can create increased self-expectations and stress. 

If you find yourself struggling with these feelings of stress or loneliness during the holidays, know that you are not alone. According to the American Psychological Association, nearly 38% of people report increased stress levels during the holiday season.  

Understanding Holiday Stress and Loneliness 

There are several factors that can contribute to stress and loneliness during the holiday season: 

  • High expectations: Social media and films often portray an idealized version of the holidays, filled with perfect family gatherings (complete with matching pajama sets), extravagant show-stopper gifts, and endless merriment. This can create unrealistic expectations that are difficult to meet, leading to feelings of disappointment and inadequacy. At times, it might feel like no one but you is stressed, which isn’t true. 
  • Financial strain: The holidays can be financially demanding, with expenses related to traveling to visit loved ones, gifts, and food. This can cause stress, especially for those who are already struggling financially. Not to mention all of the monthly expenses that must still be met (rent, car loans, student loans and school payments, phone payments and more.) 
  • Social isolation: Some individuals may feel isolated from their loved ones due to distance, work schedules, or personal conflicts. This can be particularly challenging during a time of year that is often associated with connection and family. 

Coping Mechanisms for Stress and Loneliness 

Fortunately, there are several strategies that can help you manage stress and loneliness during the holiday season: 

  • Set realistic expectations: It’s important to remember that the holidays don’t have to be perfect. Instead of focusing on unrealistic expectations, creating meaningful moments with loved ones and engaging in activities that bring you joy. You don’t have to be perfect, just be present.  
  • Manage your finances: Create a budget and stick to it. Decide in advance how much you are spending on gifts. Avoid impulse purchases and consider setting spending limits for gifts. If you’re struggling financially, consider reaching out to friends, family, or community resources for support. Remember, gifts don’t have to be “perfect.” They’re gifts after all. 
  • Connect with loved ones: Make an effort to stay connected with loved ones, whether through phone calls, video chats, or in-person visits. If you’re unable to spend time with loved ones in person, consider sending thoughtful cards. 
  • Engage in self-care: Prioritize your physical and mental well-being. Make time for activities that bring you joy, such as exercise, relaxation techniques, or hobbies. Ensure you’re getting enough sleep and eating a healthy diet. 
  • Seek professional help if needed: If you’re struggling to cope with stress or loneliness, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. A therapist can provide you with additional support and coping strategies. 

Additional Resources for Support 

OhioGuidestone is a nonprofit organization that provides a wide range of mental health and substance use disorder services to individuals and families. Here are some of our resources that can be helpful during the holiday season: 

  • Mental Health Services: We offer a variety of mental health services, including individual therapy, group therapy, and telehealth. 
  • Substance Use Services: OhioGuidestone provides comprehensive treatments for individuals struggling with substance use disorder. 
  • Support Groups: We have a variety of support groups for individuals and families facing mental health and substance use challenges. 

Remember, you’re not alone. Many people experience stress and loneliness during the holiday season. By taking care of yourself, connecting with loved ones, and seeking support when needed, you can navigate this time of year in a healthy and fulfilling way.