DDPHE Suggests these Healthy Habits for Managing Seasonal Stress

Published on December 20, 2022

The holiday season brings energy and excitement to mundane routines. However, it can be a stressful time for many people experiencing anxiety, frustration, or loss. According to a recent poll by the American Psychiatric Association, Americans are five times more likely to say their level of stress increases rather than decreases during the holidays. 

While it is normal to feel anxious during the holiday season, there are things you can do to support your mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Behavioral health experts at the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment (DDPHE) offer the following healthy habits and resources for residents: 

Maintain a healthy routine and set boundaries  

Getting a good night’s rest, staying hydrated, incorporating movement – like walking or stretching – can help stabilize your mood, reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, and improve long-term mental well-being. Make or schedule time for yourself. Do not be afraid to set healthy boundaries, including taking time for yourself. Scheduling time to go for a walk alone, to read, or to exercise will leave you feeling more energized and will improve your mood. 

You can’t (and shouldn’t) control everything. Focus on what you can. When you focus on what you can control, like your mindset, your attitude, and your actions, you can instead feel confident, empowered, and energized. Consider making a list of what you can control and refer to it when you start to feel anxious. 

Support others by choosing your words carefully 

Stigma is one of the biggest challenges people with mental health conditions face. Stigma is a negative belief, treatment or prejudice toward a group of people often based on stereotypes or assumptions. Studies in Colorado and across the U.S. have found that poor mental health is on the rise and accessing care is still a struggle for many.   

Support your friends and family this holiday season (and year round) by thinking  carefully about the words you use when you speak about mental health. DDPHE’s What You Say Matters campaign addresses sources of stigma and provides alternatives to language that is stigmatizing.  

Check out the language guide to learn what to say to support people experiencing mental health conditions.  

Tips for those in recovery  

For those in recovery, the holidays can be a time of high stress, making them more vulnerable to relapse.  

Between family reunions, work festivities, and parties with friends, you can feel pressure to attend every event. Plan on only attending events that truly interest you to avoid extra stress. When you attend a party, bring your own water, soda, or make a holiday mocktail from online recipes. If possible, drive yourself to the event so you can leave at a time that suits you. 

Many celebrations center around alcohol. Start new traditions like baking, caroling, or volunteering to participate in the spirit of the season. Volunteering is a great way to stay busy, connect with others, and practice gratitude.  

Find more information on staying sober here.  

DDPHE offers free overdose prevention resources, including naloxone and fentanyl test strips, for all Denver residents.  

Honor your grief 

The holiday season isn’t always happy for loss who have lost a loved one. The Family Advocacy Support Team (FAST) at Denver’s Office of the Medical Examiner, provides tips for managing grief at the holidays for people who have experienced loss.  

Remember, it’s okay to feel anxious and know you’re not alone in feeling this way. There isn’t a right or wrong way to approach the holidays after loss. Be present with the people around you. And be kind to yourself. It’s important to acknowledge your feelings, instead of ignoring them.  

Create a list of coping skills you can rely during these moments. Activities like breathing deeply, taking a walk, practicing meditation, and listening to music can help you process your feelings. 

You’ll find more advice here on grief and the holidays

Ask for help 

It is important to get support from friends, family, coworkers, and mental health professionals if you need it. The holidays can be a stressful time. You are not alone. There are many resources available locally and nationally that offer supportive services that address mental and behavioral health. If you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1. 

Colorado Crisis Services offers support for people who are experiencing a mental or behavioral health crisis. Text “TALK” to 38255 or call 1-844-493-8255 This service is free, confidential, and available 24-hours a day, seven days a week. 

The Colorado Department of Human Services’ Office of Behavioral Health’s provider database can help you locate behavioral health treatment near you. 

Mental Health First Aid offers additional tips and resources for year-round well-being management and offers a skills-based training course that teaches participants about mental health and substance-use issues. 

Learn more about the city’s work to improve mental and behavioral well-being in Denver at Denvergov.org/CommunityHealth.