Holidays stress you out? You're not alone

Holidays stress you out? You’re not alone

According to the popular song lyrics, this is “the most wonderful time of the year.” But a new survey from the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center finds Americans are feeling additional strain this year.

More than 1,000 respondents participated in the survey. Eighty-one percent cited national issues and world affairs. Three-quarters are feeling the strain of rising prices and holiday spending. Fifty-three percent are stressed about rising respiratory illnesses like flu and Covid. And even the memory of last year’s travel meltdown is weighing on people.

“We weren’t surprised to hear some of the things that people are very stressed about,” says Dr. Nicole Hollingshead, an assistant professor at OSU Wexner Medical Center, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Health. “If you’re finding that your mood is off, you’re more irritated, and it’s really impacting your ability to concentrate as well — those might be signs that the stress is above and beyond what we would expect to be more of the normal holiday stress.”

Avrielle and Alex Strahleare spending their first holiday as a married couple, juggling how to see everyone in one swoop this Thanksgiving. They are feeling the holiday strain.

“Inflation is an insane stress right now! I mean everything is way more expensive,” said Alex.

“We feel the holiday — or the idea of a holiday — will probably be in the spring,” said Avrielle.

There are ways to tamp down that stress and increase your joy, according to experts — starting with focusing on what you can control and making time for self-care.

“Some other things that we can do is make sure that when we are feeling really anxious and overwhelmed, that we take time to stop and to pause. Really think about ‘What is it that I’m stressed about?'” said Hollingshead.

Practice compassion toward others and toward yourself, starting with letting go of that pressure for a picture-perfect holiday.

“Really the holidays are important because of who we’re with or the traditions that we’re doing,” said Hollingshead. “Take a deep breath, drop your shoulders, be present — as opposed to striving for this idea of perfect. Your loved ones will enjoy being with you just because it’s you.”

And if you’re concerned all this merrymaking will throw you off your diet or fitness goals, Hollingshead suggests building in time for a family hike or movement you can all do together.