Dealing with Stress and Grief During the Holidays

December 11, 2019
Male stressed at christmas

It is often referred to as the most wonderful time of the year, but that’s not always true. For many, the holidays can be stressful and full of sadness.

During the holiday season, so many things can cause stress, and stress can cause depression and ultimately put you at risk for suicide.

Your expectations could cause stress. You might put extra pressure on yourself to find the perfect gift or to cook a delicious meal. Around the holidays, you also deal with seasonal changes. (Yes, seasonal depression is a real medical condition.)

What’s the best way to deal with these challenges? Dr. Jeffrey Shelton, chairman of the Middlesex Health Department of Psychiatry, says it is important to manage your expectations. Delegate and make it a potluck dinner, and keep doing what you normally do outside of the holiday season, such as exercising or spending time with friends. If you have plans to join a gym, don't wait until the new year!

“Take good care of yourself,” Dr. Shelton says.

Giving back can also help. Volunteer at a local soup kitchen or help your community in others ways.

Dealing with loss
Middlesex Hospital Holiday Stress2

Losing a loved one can turn a joyous holiday season into a challenging time of year. Bereavement is particularly difficult during the holidays because the season is often all about family.

It’s OK to grieve.

Dr. Shelton says it might be helpful to do something special to remember your loved one during the holidays. Light a candle, and it will help honor that person and validate your feelings, he says.

If you know someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one, Dr. Shelton suggests that you reach out. Talk to them, ask them open-ended questions, express empathy and withhold judgment.

When to seek help

Sometimes, the stress and sadness can get to be too much. You should seek help if you are no longer doing the things that you normally do.

Pay attention to your thoughts and actions and recognize if a particular action becomes a pattern. Are you irritable? Do you have trouble getting out of bed?

Just like it is OK to grieve, it is OK to seek help. Don’t isolate yourself.

One final tip: Be mindful of your alcohol consumption. If you are depressed, stay away. Alcohol won’t help you heal.


Featured Provider

Jeffrey T. Shelton, MD

Jeffrey T. Shelton, MD


  • Middletown, CT

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