Holidays can be a stressful time of year.

A survey by the American Psychological Association reported about 38% of people feel like their stress levels go up during the holidays. And, 1 in 2 people will feel financially stressed. So, what can people do to manage their stress this time of year?

What makes this time of year so stressful for people?

There is a lot of pressure to be happy during the holidays. It can be tough to be “jolly,” especially if you are grieving the loss of a loved one, experiencing work or financial related issues, or just lonely since you may not be able to be with your family and friends. There is also a feeling during the holidays of trying to “keep up” with others. For some people, this may be trying to host the perfect family holiday, buying all the things your kids want or need, or even feeling like you have too many responsibilities and not enough time to complete all the tasks.

What are the holiday blues? How is that related to depression?

Holiday blues are a real phenomenon which can be caused by loneliness, anxiety, or stress. It can have similar symptoms to depression, including feeling sad, losing your appetite or eating too much, using alcohol or drugs to cope, feeling fatigued or overwhelmed.  The blues are seasonal, often during the period between Thanksgiving and the New Years. If these feelings continue, worsen, or you start to have thoughts of hurting yourself or others, then this may be depression. You should seek help immediately.

Do suicide rates go up this time of year?

Suicide rates decrease in December, and peak in the spring and fall, but that doesn’t mean we can let our guard down. Risk factors can be put into three categories: health, environmental, and historical factors. Anyone who has a history of mental health issues, especially depression, substance abuse, or anxiety, chronic pain or traumatic brain injury can be at risk. Environmental factors can include stressful life events, access to guns, work or personal issues (like a breakup, divorce or loss of a job). And, historical factors a personal or family history of suicide or suicide attempts, or abuse can also contribute.

What can people do to minimize their stress and improve their mental health?

  • Identify what triggers your stress
  • Put together a plan for those stressors
  • Make time to de-stress. Whatever works best for you. Some activities which have been shown to help with stress are exercise, meditation, reading, getting outdoors, listening to music. Really, whatever works best for you and your interests. There is no magic stress-reliever, but it is important to find what works best for you.
  • Don’t abuse alcohol or drugs

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