6 Ways To Feel Happier Around The Holidays When Stress Runs High, According To Experts

by Julia Guerra

When midnight strikes on Nov. 1, the internet says "so long" to jack-o'-lanterns, costume makeup, and miniature candy bars like clockwork. The day after All Hallows' Eve is the unofficial kickoff to what has become known as the most wonderful time of the year. But trust me, you're not alone if, amidst all the excitement, you’re on the sidelines thinking, "Why do I get sad around the holidays?" Not everyone goes into Christmahanakwanzika feeling merry and bright, and if you’re prone to feeling more Scrooge-like than celebratory this year, there are a couple of ways to get you in the mood.

Sure, holiday season sounds wonderful if you’re looking at it from face value. Thanksgiving gives you the green light to wear stretchy dress pants and indulge in seconds, even thirds of every course from appetizers to desserts, while Christmas includes exchanging gifts, drinking hot cocoa, and singing carols. All the warm, fuzzy feels of commercial holidays are meant to be enjoyed and shared with loved ones, but for someone who, let's say, isn't seeing eye-to-eye with a family member, or has a small budget to work with for buying gifts, the holidays might not be such a joy.

The thing to remember is, it’s — normal, even — to feel a little meh when holiday season takes over your social feed and favorite radio stations. After all, even Rudolph had his reservations at first. Rude uncles and material things aside, the holidays are meant to bring family and friends together to celebrate this beautiful, sometimes melodramatic, thing called life. Try your best to push all of the inevitable stressors aside, and reference these tips on how to be happier during the holidays when you feel yourself giving into the slump.

Stop Focusing On What You Don't Have, And Be Grateful For What You Do

Between Black Friday deals, commercials, email advertisements, and your family texting you for a wish list, it can be so easy to get carried away with material things around the holidays — which, despite what capitalism seems to insist, is actually not the point of Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanza at all (shocking, I know) — but I digress.

The holiday season has become so overly commercialized that it's easy for people to lose sight of what really matters (family, friends, love, health), and become consumed with material wants and buying lavish gifts for others. Before you know it, the holidays are all stress, and no fun. It's a messy cycle because (and I'm guilty of this myself) you start thinking in terms of what you don't have, and take what you do have for granted.

To regain perspective, licensed psychologist and founder of Miami Shrinks Erika Martinez, Psy.D. suggests volunteering at either a local homeless shelter, soup kitchen, or children's hospital. "Sometimes when we're in a hard place," Martinez tells Elite Daily, "helping others helps us get out of our heads and recognize the things we have to be grateful for."

Recreate Happy Childhood Memories

From my experience, and from what I've gathered from friends and loved ones, the holidays change when you grow up, and it's kind of inevitable.

When you were a child, the holidays were magical, because you weren't the one behind the scenes making it that way. Now all of a sudden, you're the one in charge of buying gifts, preparing four-course meals, and hosting parties. But just because you're all grown up, that doesn't mean the magic has to end.

Think back to when you were a kid, and make a list of every detail, big or small, that made these moments special. Martinez tells Elite Daily it can be anything from hot chocolate, to putting up decorations, listening to holiday music, or watching holiday movies. Recreating these memories could spark those childlike emotions and maybe even trigger a little excitement for what's to come throughout the season.

Do Your Best To Avoid The People Who Give You Stress

Granted, this might be easier said than done if the people who give you the most stress are the people you're going home to for the holidays, but there's always a way around it. Stacy Kaiser, Live Happy editor at large and licensed psychotherapist tells Elite Daily that the key is to "surround yourself with people who bring comfort and joy and avoid those who make you feel stressed or who are negative."

For example, if you know sitting next to cousin Debbie at the dinner table means striking up a conversation that always begins with small talk and ends in a political debate, pull up a chair next to grandma instead. If, on the night before Thanksgiving, the same old group of friends you made a point to avoid during high school hang around the local bar, call up your best friend and suggest a new hot spot to meet at instead.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said that no one can make you feel inferior without your consent and, trust me, there should be no exceptions to this rule, especially around the holidays.

In Addition To A Wish List, Make A Gratitude List

Take a moment to stop thinking about what you want, and start wanting what you already have.

Everyone around the holidays has a wish list With every other TV commercial promoting a new gadget or clothing item accompanied by a catchy jingle, it's almost impossible not to want something new during this time of year. Material things can be great, but money really can't buy happiness, even around the holidays.

To bring your emotions back to the true meaning of the holidays, Dr. Bradley Nelson, veteran holistic physician, international lecturer and author of the bestselling book, The Emotion Code, suggests drafting a gratitude list to focus on all of the positive things your life already possess.

He tells Elite Daily,

One of the most important things you can do is to make a list every day of the things in your life that are actually good.
It may seem like everything is bad in your life, and you don't have any good things going on, but if you think about it, you may.
Take A Break From Social Media

The extent to which television and social media glamorize the holidays has gotten way out of control.

Do yourself a huge favor and do not log onto social media on Christmas morning. Chances are, your feed will be a collage of over-the-top home decor and sparkling trees surrounded by dozens of expensive presents, and you might find yourself comparing the holiday you're having to the holiday your friends are having.

If you want to hop onto Facebook to wish everyone a happy Christmahanakwanzika, write a sweet little message and log off ASAP because, unfortunately, FOMO is real and super unnecessary feeling. Instead of scrolling through photos of the brand new car your ex-BFF's fiancé bought for her, focus on the memories you're making with family and friends.

Don't Force The Holiday Cheer By Overcompensating

Every year, I make a holiday bucket list. Sometimes it's in my head, and sometimes I write it down. Either way, I tend to paint a vibrant picture in my head of what Christmastime should be, from taking a walk through a snow-tinted park with hot chocolate with my husband, to watching Little Women and Love Actually, to going shopping for gifts with my mom.

Expectations run high around the holidays, and we all have activities we'd like to squeeze into our schedules on top of our everyday responsibilities like work and school. Unfortunately, we're not all superhuman, and we can get a little carried away and super stressed if we don't make our lists and check them twice.

According to Katherine Muller, PsyD., assistant professor of psychology at the Albert Eisten College of Medicine in New York City, this is a common mistake. She told Health that it's important for us to still keep up with our daily routines throughout the holiday season by prioritizing things like workouts, book club, etc., and not "squeezing in more holiday than you can handle."

Here's to a stress-free holiday season — for once!