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The holiday season is truly what you make it. Although it can be a joyous time of year it can also be a season of stress and depression. “The holidays can be a stressful time for many, whether it be seeing family members you don’t get along with, end of year work stress, or feeling like you didn’t reach your 2021 goals,” says Michelle Wax, founder of the American Happiness Project.

In a study by the American Psychological Association, 38% of people surveyed said their stress increased during the holiday season. This can result in physical illness, depression, anxiety, and in some cases substance misuse.

This time of year is unavoidable, so how can you approach this season with less stress?

Set boundaries

Justine Carino a licensed mental health counselor says “One of the best ways to support your mental health during the holidays is to set boundaries with loved ones and stick to them,” She explains that our relationships play a big role in our overall mental health and if there is a disconnect or something feels uncomfortable, it may be time to assess your boundaries within that relationship. Not sure if your relationship falls into this category?  

Try asking yourself:

This will help to build insight into why they are making you feel this way. What is this feeling trying to tell you about this relationship?

Reframe your outlook

Zoila Darton Creative Director & CEO, WORD Creative. Darton works with many health and wellness brands and has been able to change her outlook at this time of year. The holidays used to be stressful for me when I felt the urgency to be everywhere at all times. I no longer subscribe to the idea that the holidays are the only times where we can celebrate with family and friends. I think if we can reframe our time on earth as a consistent celebration, the holidays won’t feel as stressful. Just another special time!”  

If you need a few actionable tips in your pocket Michelle offers 3 suggestions below that you can turn to when you are starting to feel overwhelmed.

1. Take breaks as frequently as you need

Allow yourself to step away from a situation or go outside when needed to reset. As you step away, take a moment to take back control of the stressful situation by doing a simple mind and body reset to shift your mindset. Close your eyes, take a minute to deeply breathe,  and then actively focus on what you can appreciate or feel grateful for at that moment.

2. Don’t take comments/questions personally

When we’re around relatives we haven’t seen in a while, sometimes comments or questions get brought up that can appear rude or inconsiderate. If a relative makes a comment or asks a question that doesn’t sit right – take a deep breath and know that it reflects a lot more about how they’re feeling about themselves, rather than you. If needed, take that break and step away to reset and take back control of the situation in your mind, instead of allowing it to bother you.  

3. Remind yourself of how far you’ve come this year

The end of the year can sometimes bring up frustration of what wasn’t accomplished or created – but odds are, you did have a lot of good things happen throughout the year. A great exercise to reflect on the year is to set a timer on your phone for 10 minutes and write down every single thing you can think of that you’re proud of this year. This could be something small such as remembering your friend’s birthday or something larger like getting a promotion or walking away from a relationship you weren’t happy in.

Remember this time of year should be enjoyable, if you are not having a good time it’s time to make a change.