Dealing with holiday stress

Holiday season mental health tips
Updated: Nov. 20, 2023 at 6:00 PM CST
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - Thanksgiving is just a few days away, and many people are already in the holiday spirit.

For many, this time of year brings a lot of stress.

Increased family time, traveling across the country to see relatives, cooking for 20+ people, it all takes a toll.

And if you’re feeling stressed out leading up to the holidays, you are not alone.

“You’re adding a lot more complications and trying to coordinate all of those efforts,” Dr. Shannon Cubria Farris said.

Dr. Shannon is a clinical psychologist.

He said November and December come with obligations for many people, and the holidays aren’t always positive for everyone.

“A little anxiety-ridden,” Richard Bock, a Cape Girardeau resident said.

“Well, it’s a good kind of stress but it’s trying to get all of the food together and ready and serve it hot and fresh at the same time that everyone wants to eat,” Bonnie Gerecke said.

“A huge stressor like number one, number two stressors during Thanksgiving is cooking and cleaning. No surprise,” Dr. Shannon said.

Dr. Shannon said there is one word that can help you out in this aspect, delegate.

“You can send out an email or text to everyone prior to the Thanksgiving meal and asking the last minute things that you need, that you want to spend as much time with them as you can. And these are the things that will help you do that,” Dr. Shannon suggested.

But for some, the anxiety starts once they sit down at the dinner table.

“When you come together, even in the best of times, even with the best families, there will still always be some tension,” Dr. Shannon said.

Dr. Shannon said if you have a relative that’s known for bringing up awkward or uncomfortable topics at the table, be prepared to distract them. For example, if they like football ask about their team.

“What does he like about the games this weekend, who’s his favorite players, those things, so you distract that so you can keep it engaging,” Dr. Shannon said. “And everyone loves to have genuine interest about what they enjoy.”

And even when you’re surrounded by family and friends, you can still feel isolated.

“Try to acknowledge your feelings of loneliness or sadness or whatever those emotions are,” Dr. Shannon explained.

Dr. Shannon said the best way to cope with that is to put down your phone.

“It actually lends itself to more opportunities to connect with another person or a group of people, and that’s what we want to do during the holiday season,” Dr. Shannon said.

For some, the stress can start before they even head out the door.

Especially, if your family is far away.

“Flying and also fear and anxiety of flying, but also on buses and trains,” Dr. Shannon said. “And if you’re driving or you’re the passenger in the car.”

Airports get crowded and some people may drive faster than you’d like.

Dr. Shannon said think about the things you can control for yourself.

“So what you can do to prepare to make it a little easier, is keep a change of clothes, some basic toiletries with you, mobile device chargers, for obvious reasons, and extra reading material, whether it’s on your phone, or you actually take an actual book or magazine,” Dr. Shannon suggested.

As Thanksgiving ends, the next holiday is already on the horizon, and those doorbusters and presents cause stress too.

“The crowds, the people being real pushy and shovey, and not being real polite,” Gina Hitt said.

“Making sure I’m picking out the right gifts for people,” Bock said.

“Don’t be afraid to ask people what they want to give you an idea if you don’t know but if you listen to what they’re saying, you’ll pick up on all smaller gifts that they’ll use your round and both of you will benefit from that gift,” Dr. Shannon said.

Overall, Dr. Shannon said all of these feelings are normal.

“All of that culminates into a couple of months, and it makes it incredibly stressful,” Dr. Shannon said. “And that’s why people need to pay attention to that they need to take plenty of breaks.”