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4 Ways Women Can Manage Holiday Stress

December 06, 2022

The holiday season that starts on Thanksgiving and runs through New Year’s includes food, family, gifts, travel, parties – as well as stress, depression, and feelings of inadequacy. Right?

This time of year can be especially stressful for women, whose responsibilities seem to increase during the holidays.

“As women, we tend to take on most of the holiday things for family and friends, and we feel this overwhelming pressure for everything to be perfect,” said Sarah Bouchard, BSN, RNC-OB, regional director of Women’s Health for Backus and Windham Hospitals.

But the holidays don’t have to mentally or emotionally overwhelming. Bouchard shares four tips for managing the most wonderful time of the year.

> Connect with Hartford HealthCare’s Women’s Health

Set limits and don’t be afraid to say “no.”

The holidays are often accompanied by a long list of obligations, errands and events. While these to-do lists can be fun, they can also be exhausting and emotionally draining. It’s important for you to know when to say “enough” or “no.”

“It’s important to know your limits, whether it’s financial limits, or social limits, and to set expectations for yourself,” Bouchard said. “It’s OK to not be able to do everything.”

Manage your hopes and expectations.

It’s natural to have high expectations of the holiday season; everywhere we look, we’re reminded that this is a time for family, joy and abundance. However, it’s equally important to check in with ourselves about managing our hopes and expectations.

Family traditions, outside expectations, or even scrolling through social media and seeing other people’s posts about their holidays can set the bar too high, said Bouchard.

“Be realistic so you aren’t setting yourself up for failure. But also know that if something doesn’t go right, it’s not actually a failure. It just didn’t go right. It’s OK to not love every single moment of the holidays.”

> Connect with the Behavioral Health Network

Acknowledge and reflect on any negative emotions.

For some people, negative emotions might be related to unrealistic expectations around the holidays, or from feeling overwhelmed.

The holidays can also trigger grief or sadness associated with a loss, and it doesn’t have to have been a recent loss for you to feel the effects. It’s important to acknowledge those feelings, Bouchard said.

If you find yourself “not in the spirit,” Bouchard said the first step is self-reflection.

“Is there anything you can do to make yourself feel better? Talk to someone about what you are feeling. And if you think you need more help, contact your healthcare provider to schedule an appointment.”

Maintain a healthy routine during the holiday season.

The holidays don’t have to ruin all those healthy habits you built up throughout the year. Bouchard recommends that you:

“Check the boxes for self-care,” she said. “Have you gone to all the (medical) appointments you should have this year? If not, set yourself up for success in the new year.”

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