“It’s the most wonderful time of the year … It’s the hap-happiest season of all.”
Words to a classic holiday song. Yes, the holidays are here – a joyful time of year reconnecting with family and friends, creating memories and enjoying music, food and special traditions. But the holidays can also be a time of great stress and anxiety – too little time, too much to do. The holidays can be difficult if you are alone, suffering a loss or just plain weary. Some people wish the holidays would just go away.
The American Psychological Association reports that the leading holiday stressors are time (67 percent often or sometimes), money (62 percent often or sometimes) and commercialism or hype ( 53 percent often or sometimes). A study conducted by Healthline and reported by the Harvard Medical School found that among the holiday stressors listed by respondents were the financial demands of the season, negotiating the interpersonal dynamics of family and maintaining personal health habits, such as an exercise regimen.
"The holiday season can pose very real dangers through stress and related health problems – even for those who 'love the holidays,'” said Janet Sarkos, executive director of Caring Contact, an award-winning, volunteer-staffed caring and crisis hotline and listening community. "It's important that people know there are others out there to whom they can call for help and support.
"At Caring Contact, we are here to listen when people may not be sure where to turn. Our volunteers provide a listening community through our caring and crisis phone lines."
When stress is high, it is difficult to stop and regroup, noted Sarkos. The Mayo Clinic offers these tips that can help minimize the stress that accompanies the holidays:
- Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can't be with loved ones, realize that it's normal to feel sadness and grief. It's okay to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can't force yourself to be happy just because it's the holiday season.
- Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events.
- Be realistic. The holidays don't have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change, as well. Choose a few to hold onto and be open to creating new ones.
- Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don't live up to all of your expectations. Chances are they're feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
- Stick to a budget. Before you go gift- and food-shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don't try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts..
- Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That'll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.
- Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed.
- Don't abandon healthy habits. Don't let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.
- Take a breather. Make some time for yourself.
- Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.
Caring Contact has trained volunteer listeners available to help people get through holiday stress or depression. Listeners are trained to provide an empathetic and nonjudgmental ear and all calls are anonymous and confidential.
Callers can reach a caring listener by dialing 908-232-2880.
Caring Contact serves Central and Northern New Jersey and is a primary responder to calls to the national suicide prevention line (1-800-273-TALK or 1-800-SUICIDE) that originate in New Jersey. Callers also reach Caring Contact by dialing 908-232-2880. Those preferring to seek supporting through texting may text “heart” to 741-741. Caring Contact also provides best-in-class training to the Central and Northern New Jersey Community.
Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer at Caring Contact should contact the agency at 908.301.1899.
About Caring Contact
Caring Contact is an award-winning, volunteer-staffed caring and crisis hotline providing active listening support and best-in-class education to the Central and Northern New Jersey community. We attentively and compassionately serve those in emotional distress and educate our communities about the power of personal connection. We are affiliated with CONTACT USA, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the American Association of Suicidology. If you are in crisis and need someone to listen, call us at 908-232-2880. To learn more, visit www.caringcontact.org.