The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

A comprehensive guide to combating stress this holiday season

Soro Ung

As the first snowflakes begin to fall and cobweb-covered sleds are brought out of the garage, the holiday season is rapidly approaching. The string lights and pie baking also come with the unavoidable reality that everyone in your social circle will be demanding a holiday gift. 

The holiday season should be a time to relax and connect with friends and family; however, holiday-related stress has long been affecting people. In a 2006 study, the American Psychological Association found more people in the United States reported an increase in stress levels during the holidays rather than a decrease. 

Fret not! It is possible to avoid the stress of the holidays no matter how many times your third cousin asks where their holiday card is, and this guide is here to show you how. 

Whether it’s through breathing techniques or meditation, one thing is for certain: This holiday season, we’re taking charge of our mental health. 


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Do what you can, release what you can’t

Take a breath. The first step to combating any stressful situation, however cliche it may sound, is to stay grounded. Ask yourself, “What am I stressing about? What is in my control and what isn’t?” You can decide who gets a gift this year, but there’s only so much you can do about who sits next to whom at the dinner table. 

If getting gifts is the headache of every year, consider planning early. If you’re in charge of the family meal this year, remember you’re allowed to use boxed mashed potatoes if you can’t remember the old family recipe. 


Prioritize your health

I know what you’re thinking: “Once the holidays are over, I’ll get those eight hours of sleep.” Not this season. This season, prioritize your needs. Sleeping, eating three meals a day, getting fresh air and personal relaxation time are nonnegotiable. 

The Yale University counseling center reported scheduling time to relax has a myriad of beneficial effects, including relieving muscle tension, boosting immune functions, improving brain function and, of course, reducing stress. 

So, pick up that book you’ve been wanting to read, pour a cup of tea and unwind for an hour or two. The holiday decorating can wait.


Ask for help

Asking for help can be anxiety-inducing, but it can also be the deciding factor for whether you take on more than you can handle this season. If you find yourself with too many tasks for the holiday preparation, don’t be afraid to reach out for help and delegate some of the responsibilities. 

In American musician Amanda Palmer’s book “The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help,” she suggests that the main fear when it comes to asking for help is seeming burdensome. It’s important to remember this holiday season that responsibilities are made to be shared.

An opportunity to delegate responsibilities in a fun way is to suggest a potluck. Each attendee can bring a dish to avoid one person taking on a meal for everyone. 


Don’t break the bank

Perhaps one of the most stressful aspects of the holidays is the financial commitment they seem to require. Buying gifts, ingredients, decorations and whatever else may be necessary can get expensive, but they don’t have to. 

Aside from the fact that not everyone in your life needs a gift, not everyone needs something extravagant. Consider the classic holiday card and treat combination for people you want to show your appreciation to. A handwritten note goes a long way for most people. 


If you’re a student who wants to learn more about how to combat stress, contact the University of Illinois Counseling Center for stress management strategies and personal counseling. 

Those struggling with mental health can also contact the SAMHSA National Helpline or visit the McKinley Health Center


[email protected]

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