With or Without Your Family…
The holidays can be a very stressful time of year and it is very common that people feel anxious, stress, and even depressed around the holiday season. It can also be especially difficult if there has been a recent divorce, death in the family or other difficult hardship. So, here are 10 tips to help you flow through the holiday season more easily.
#1 – Stick to your regular routine: A change in routine can lead to additional stress. Try to exercise at your usual time, eat the same diet as you normally do, and even stick to your sleep routine. Keeping structure to your routine can make a big difference in your mood.
#2 – Moderation is key: While it may be easy to drink and eat too much at parties and dinners, try not to overindulge with food and/or alcohol. Remember, eating and drinking may feel like they temporarily "ease the pain" of the holiday blues, but they can also lead to feelings of guilt as well as exasperate your feelings of stress, sadness or anxiety. The best thing you can do for yourself is think moderation and take it easy.
#3 – There is no such thing as the ‘perfect’ holiday or ‘perfect’ family: So many of us have an idealized version of what the holidays should be like and feel like. Most of us have watched movies that depict these perfect scenarios or at the very least the happy ending. However, that does not always happen in real life. This can lead to big disappoints when our family doesn’t live up to those expectations. Try to be realistic, try to let go and remember that no one has a perfect holiday or perfect family. Everyone is doing the best they can and most everyone is dealing with their own emotions and challenges too. Do your best to let go.
#4 – Stay connected to friends/family that value YOU: Make sure to spend time with friends and/or family who love and care about you. And if they don’t live close by, call them for a "reality check", and for ‘healthy connections’. Sometimes a call with someone whom you really love and whom really loves you can make all the difference. Remember to ask for support if you need it.
#5 – Let go of your feelings of guilt: Try not to put unreasonable pressure on yourself to be happy or even enjoy your holiday. Likewise, try not to over-analyze your interactions with others. Give yourself a break this holiday season and do your best to relax. Having these expectations of yourself can bring on unnecessary stress and heart ache. It’s okay to feel sadness and other feelings that don’t always feel good.
#6 – Be around others…if you want to: If you anticipate spending the holidays alone, try to volunteer somewhere. People will appreciate you, you may feel better about yourself, but most of all, you’ll have company. It is said, that giving is one of the best ways to feel better. So, one way to handle the holidays is to put your focus on helping others that may be in great need to.
#7 – Focus on today, not yesterday: There’s something about being with family and old friends that makes us become who we were and not who we are. When you find yourself reverting to old childhood patterns around your family or friends, try to walk away for a minute and remember who you are now. Also remember that it’s not necessary to play the same role as you did when you were younger, even if others are encouraging you to do so by their behaviors. You can be who you are today. If there is someone at the get-together who knows what you are like today, make sure to reach out to them and draw them into the interactions. That will help to ground you.
#8 – It’s okay to say no and set boundaries: It’s OK to say no when you’re asked to do more than you can. It’s also appropriate to remove yourself from people or situations in which you do not thrive. It’s even fine to say no to some invitations and fine to say no to those asking for favors. Remember, this is your holiday too and doing what is best for YOU is perfectly okay even if those around you don’t like it.
#9 – Ask for help: Holidays are often a time people attempt to take on too much. It’s OK to ask for help from family and friends. Try to simplify as much as possible and take tasks off your to-do list that take you away from what you really want. We often put so much on our plates that it isn’t humanely possible to get it all done. Let go and really focus on what matters most to you.
#10 – Take great care of yourself: If you’re feeling blue, pamper yourself, do what feels good, what you want to do. Try to take a walk, spend time alone if that’s what you want. Remember, this is your holiday too and you can be there for yourself just like you try to be for everyone else. Nurture yourself and give yourself the love and approval you need/deserve.
Thanks to Dr. Jennie Byrne and the team at Cognitive Psychiatry in Chapel Hill, NC for these insights.