It’s the season to be jolly—isn’t it? While many look forward to the holidays, others dread the season. If you’re already feeling stressed, additional holiday obligations can take their toll on even the most cheerful of people.

Don’t expect depression, anxiety, or other existing issues to disappear during the holidays. Understanding where stress comes from is the first step in managing it. Ask yourself what it is about the season that makes you feel stressed. Your feelings may be triggered by family issues, financial concerns, or even the time of year. Acknowledge your feelings and take time to manage them healthily.

Consider the following holiday stress-reducing tips:

  • Focus on gratitude—be grateful for what you have instead of dwelling on what you don’t
  • Don’t feel you must meet all family obligations, or go somewhere because of tradition—especially if it makes you unhappy
  • As much as possible, surround yourself with positive people
  • Be realistic with your time and don’t let yourself get overwhelmed—ask a relative to host the family get-together, or make it a potluck and have everyone contribute to the meal
  • Make a to-do list in chronological order to minimize stress
  • Overeating and drinking can increase feelings of depression and stress—try to limit your alcohol intake, stay active, and continue to eat a balanced diet
  • Create a new tradition, such as volunteering—especially if you feel lonely
  • Make time for yourself and your needs, even when hosting guests in your house
  • Keep tabs on your holiday spending; make a budget and stick to it to avoid debt-related stress in January
  • Whatever the reason for feeling down, express feelings of sadness or grief—do not feel pressured to be festive, nor be fearful of being judged
  • Keep holiday expectations manageable; set realistic goals and prioritize important tasks, and pace yourself
  • Practice mindfulness—most meditation exercises are designed to bring your thoughts back into the present moment where it is happiest and calmest

Tips for employers

As an employer, you can support employee mental health through the holiday season by following a few of these suggestions:

  • Ensure workloads are monitored and are not excessive
  • Reward employees for their work by sponsoring a holiday party or showing appreciation in some other manner
  • If your business allows it, give employees the option to dress-down during the holidays
  • Employees may be feeling pressured to maintain productivity with a reduced workforce; plan vacation schedules ahead of time to cover all staff absences and reduce stress for employees who are scheduled to work
  • Know your employees—if you notice early warning signs of anxiety or depression, don’t diagnose but do encourage them to seek professional help
  • If you have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), December is a great time to promote the program through email, handouts or workplace posters

EAP programs are economical and easy to implement and provide value throughout the year, not just during the holiday season; if you don’t have an EAP, talk to your Cowan consultant about having one added as part your Total Compensation Package.