Stress & the Holidays!
Updated: Nov 21, 2021
The holiday season is upon us.
For most, that means added stress and anxiety. Finding the best ham for our dinner, perfecting the look of our tree- centered ‘just so’ in front of the living room window, searching high and low for the ideal gift to give our loved ones, scouring Pinterest for amazing recipes for a slew of baked goods….and the list goes on…and on…and on…
What we lose sight of is actually enjoying each and every thing we choose to do over the course of the busy season. We become frantic when something doesn’t go according to plan. There is so much time and energy invested into the planning, that when it’s over we sit back and reflect; “What did Aunt Mary get me again..I remember opening a gift from her.” “Oh, that lovely relish tray at Martha’s annual Christmas eve dinner…WHO brought that?” Rushing around, multitasking, and checking one more item off our “To Do” list, causes us to go through the motions of the holiday season. When in fact, we must be reminded to remain mindful of the wonderful experiences we are sharing with others.
To avoid added stress, anxiety, and depression, the following tips may be helpful:
Acknowledge your feelings. If you are unable to spend the holidays with family, or you have experienced the loss of a loved one (around this time of year in the past), give yourself permission to feel sadness. You don’t NEED to force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
Reach out. Feeling alone and being in isolation leads to increased depression. If you don’t have a family or friend nearby, make plans elsewhere. Volunteer at a local church or community function. You can do something good for others, while in turn, benefit from the companionship.
Be realistic. The holidays do not need to be the exact same way they were last year (and the years before). Traditions are no longer fun if they become mundane tasks. Focus on a few that you want to hold onto or be open to letting some old ones go and create a new one. The holiday is not ruined if someone forgets to bring their famous fruitcake that you’ve enjoyed every year prior.
Set aside differences. Let go of expectations and accept that family members and friends may not find something as important as you do. Set your grievances aside and plan for an appropriate time to discuss further. Remember that others may be feeling depressed or anxious this holiday season too!
Stick to a budget. Plan ahead for what your holiday priorities are. Ideally, this can be planned throughout the rest of the year. Make a list and stick to it. Don’t break your bank just to buy someone that perfect gift.
Plan ahead. Plug the days you plan to shop, bake and entertain friends, into your calendar. Remember that there are only so many hours in the day and you can’t do it all.
Stick to your routine. What you commit to over the holidays should be in addition to your daily tasks that are already part of your lifestyle. Eating healthy, making time for exercise, and getting a normal nights rest, should not take the back burner.
Take time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without interruptions, can refresh you enough to tackle that next project. Take time to just sit and enjoy a coffee while out shopping. Take a nap if you need one. Don’t let your needs be ignored so that you can focus on meeting everyone else’s....and…. MOST IMPORTANTLY…
LEARN TO SAY NO. Saying yes to every request will definitely lead to stress, not to mention feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Pause for a moment when something is asked of you. Get used to say, “Let me check my calendar and get back to you tomorrow.” This gives you a chance to truly think about whether you have the time to commit to hosting ONE more gathering. Save your YES commitments to the functions and causes you are truly passionate about.
Don’t let the holidays be something you dread. Take the steps needed to prevent the added stress that can creep up on us this time of year. Know your own triggers and be aware.
Lastly, enjoy the season. Spend time with those that matter most. Be safe and be happy.
If you find yourself overwhelmed, despite your best efforts, do not hesitate to seek out professional help.
Stress, depression and the holidays: Tips for Coping (October 3, 2014). Mayo Clinic Staff. Retrieved online at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20047544?pg=2