There are several alternatives to spending a lot of money. They include:
One of Brendel’s favorite homemade gifts is cocktail mason jars. You put the ingredients for a cocktail in a mason jar and the recipient just has to add water or alcohol.
This year, Lena Liu, 29, a Massachusetts-based resident physician, will give homemade bracelets to some of her friends.
“It can be really thoughtful and it actually ends up not being so expensive either,” Liu said. “They know that you put your work and your energy into designing the bracelet and getting the beads so they really appreciate that.”
Gift cards can seem impersonal, but Foster argues that they are a great way to stay within your budget since you can plan out the exact amount you’re spending on each card.
When patients approach Karen Lynn Cassiday, managing director of the Anxiety Treatment Center of Greater Chicago, about their financial stress during the holidays, the first advice she gives is to grant experiences rather than items.
“The thing that each person most deeply needs is to be known, heard and seen,” Cassiday said. “Then doing something with them or something for them is priceless.”
You could also gift a photoshoot or framed pictures or digital albums to commemorate happy experiences.
The gift of time
If you can’t afford to take your parents on a trip or visit them during the holidays, giving them more of your time can be a true gift, according to Eliza Menninger, medical director of the Behavioral Health Partial Hospital Program at McLean Hospital in Massachusetts.
Whether it’s planning weekly video calls with your friend group or calling your grandma every day, Menninger suggests you think of non-monetary gifts that your loved ones will appreciate.
Create your own traditions
Expectations or traditions you grew up with, such as buying expensive gifts for every member of your extended family, can cause stress during the holidays. Creating your own new traditions can help reduce it.
This year, Valentina Chavez Otero, a 22-year-old resident of Norwalk, Connecticut, is planning to celebrate the holidays by spending a day in New York City.
“I’m not very interested in celebrating Christmas, I just want to spend a day walking and seeing new things,” said Chavez Otero, who has faced economic instability since moving from Cali, Colombia, with her boyfriend.
With inflation making holiday food even more expensive than usual, one way to cut costs is making sure whoever is hosting doesn’t have to pay for the whole meal.
If your parents, grandparents, aunts or friends are hosting in their house, you could propose that everyone brings a dish, Brendel said.
“Potlucks can always be fun, and they take away the stress of preparation from one person and also reduce the cost from falling on the host,” she said. “These kinds of ideas can really reduce financial burden and stress.”
Communicate your feelings
If you are having financial difficulties, it can help to talk about it with your family and friends, Brendel said.
Liu, who was diagnosed with anxiety and depression during her first year as a medical resident, now feels more comfortable talking with her family after keeping her struggles to herself for six months.
“I’m of Chinese ethnicity and, in our culture, it’s very stigmatized to talk about mental health at all,” Liu said.
Her parents and twin sister helped her through the difficult time, and her father shared that he struggled to show emotions when he was growing up and wants her generation to be able to be more open.
Practice a healthy routine
While your stress might stem from financial struggles, negative feelings can spill over to other aspects of your life, making it hard to enjoy the holidays.
Menninger recommends taking some time out from social gatherings and Christmas shopping to do something for yourself, such as exercising or meditating.
If you tend to forget to take a second to breathe, Menninger recommends you add an alarm in your phone as a reminder. The best times to have some time alone are between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., she said.
For Lori Lebson, a 41-year-old mom from Massachusetts, it’s crucial to go for a run at some time during the day, even if it means waking up a bit before her children.
Chavez Otero, who has been having trouble sleeping for the last few months, watches sleeping meditations on YouTube to help her reduce anxiety. Liu’s favorite relaxing activity is doing yoga before or after a hospital shift.
Liu also practices journaling, writing down what she is grateful for in her life.
Getting enough sleep is also critical, so Menninger recommends turning off your electronics a few hours before bed.
Seek professional help if you need it
If you are experiencing mental health struggles, there are several resources you can use to find professional help.
In the U.S., you can dial 211 to speak with a mental health expert, confidentially and for free.
Other mental health resources include:
Veterans Crisis Line: call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Crisis Text Line: Text the word ‘Home’ to 741-741
The Trevor Lifeline for LGBTQ Youth: 1-866-488-7386
The Trans Lifeline: 1-877-565-8860