The holiday season is a time of tradition and togetherness – but it’s also a time of obligations, overindulgence, and out-of-control stress. The pressure to pick out the perfect gifts, prepare the perfect meals, or strike the perfect pose for your holiday card photo can make you feel frenzied, zapping the joy right out of every celebration. Beyond that, holiday stress can also wreak havoc on your mental health, causing symptoms of anxiety and depression that last long after the New Year begins.

Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate holiday stress. To prevent burnout and get through December unscathed, here are a few tips for coping with seasonal stress and depression.

  • Get organized

All those holiday obligations can overwhelm you pretty quickly. At the start of the season – or as soon as you realize you need to get organized – set up a schedule in a planner or calendar. Enter all your social gatherings, parties, commitments, and appointments to help you take stock of your time. Seeing a visual representation of your availability (or lack thereof) can help you establish priorities and stick with them throughout the season.

  • Set a holiday budget

When it comes to gift giving, it can be easy to get carried away. But if you’re not careful with your spending, all those little presents can add up to a big credit card bill at the end of the month. Before you start checking off items on your shopping list, set a budget for how much you can reasonably afford to spend – and then stick to it.

  • Manage expectations

Expecting perfection from your holiday celebrations is a surefire way to set yourself up for disappointment and dismay. Acknowledge that you’re only one person, and you can’t do it all. Not everything has to be perfect on the holidays – in fact, mistakes and imperfections create opportunities for special, one-of-a-kind memories.

  • Establish healthy habits

Some people cope with stress by skipping meals and staying up all night, while others overeat and watch hours of TV. But the best thing you can do for both your physical and mental health is to establish healthy eating, sleeping, and exercise habits. Remember: a healthy body supports a healthy mind.

  • Practice self-care

During the holidays, we spend a lot of time caring for others, but it’s important to take the time to care for ourselves as well. Unplug from stress by taking relaxing walks, reading your favorite books, or simply spending some time alone and away from the demands and distractions of holiday obligations.

  • Stay connected

For people who live far away from family members or who’ve recently lost loved ones, the holidays can be a lonely time. Depression can heighten feelings of loneliness, which can lead to isolation and further exacerbate depression. If you feel lonely during the holidays, reach out to friends, neighbors, or others in your community who can keep you connected and help you avoid becoming isolated.

  • Minimize alcohol consumption

Drinking may provide a temporary reprieve from bad feelings, but it can also cause long-term problems for your mental health. If you suffer from depression, even moderate drinking can exacerbate symptoms of depression. You may think it’s helping in the moment, but alcohol abuse leads to dependency and can make existing depression worse.

  • Seek professional help

If you’re having a difficult time coping with the stress of the holidays on your own, you may be suffering from anxiety, depression, or another mental health condition such as seasonal affective disorder. You don’t have to suffer alone. Reach out to a mental health professional so you can get you the treatment you need to recover.

Get help for depression at Alvarado Parkway Institute

At Alvarado Parkway Institute, we offer customized inpatient and outpatient treatment for people struggling with depression. Our doctors and therapists work closely with each patient to identify root causes of their condition and determine appropriate treatment plans. With a personalized plan of action and the support of a top-notch treatment team, you’ll learn to manage your symptoms and get back to living a healthy and meaningful life.

This holiday season, give yourself the gift of mental health. Call Alvarado Parkway Institute at (619) 667-6125 for more information.