Season’s Greetings! It’s that time of year again, the holiday season. It seems to arrive earlier every year, and it is everywhere: on television and social media, in the stores, and at work, everyone is getting ready to have a wonderful holiday season!Perhaps there are a few fortunate people who sail through a magical holiday, but for the rest of us, this time of year can be a mix of work, stress, grief, loneliness, financial strain, family/relationship problems, and unattainable expectations. Here are some tips on how to cope with the special stresses of the holidays, and maybe even have some fun!
ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR FEELINGS. Past disappointments and memories of lost loved ones loom large at this time of year. It is okay to be sad during the holiday season. It is okay to cry, to express your feelings and to miss someone. There is no right way that you should feel.
IT IS OKAY TO BE SAD. If you are missing someone take time to acknowledge that person by doing something that reminds you of them. Spending a designated time with someone else who is missing them and reminiscing about a good time can be therapeutic. Many people find that doing an activity in honor of the person can help you to feel connected to them, perhaps something you used to do together.
SET LIMITS ON TIME AND ASK FOR HELP. The holidays can be a time of endless chores and expectations. It is fine to ask for help from others. It is fine to say “no”. Set limits asked to host a meal, attend a social event, or pitch in with a dozen cookies. Sometimes traditions can be wonderful, and sometimes they lose their meaning and become a source or resentment. Pick and choose what works for you and leave the rest behind.
REMEMBER, THE GRASS IS NOT ALWAYS GREENER. We call this “Facebook Effect”. Looking at posts of fabulous trips, elaborate decorations, fun parties and extravagant gifts can be discouraging if a person is lonely or financially struggling. If you find yourself sad after spending time on social media, take a break. And remember, these images are not always the whole picture. Try to think of Facebook as merely a highlight reel.
SET LIMITS WITH DIFFICULT PEOPLE. Spending time with family can lead us to fall into old family roles. Are you the baby? The trouble maker? These (self) imposed roles can be frustrating when you have long ago escaped from these labels in your day to day life. It is okay to decline an invitation, or put limits on an invitation. Do you have an invitation for a family dinner you are dreading because of old arguments or other concerns? If you feel obligated to go, put parenthesis on your visit. Go just for dessert instead of the whole day, for example.
REMEMBER THE REASON FOR THE SEASON. Think now about a favorite holiday memory. Did it involve great effort or expense on your part or someone else’s? Chances are the answer is “no”. Some of our best memories involve special people and traditions. Keep this in mind when you are feeling the pressure to go overboard. Set realistic expectations for time and money.
PLAN AHEAD. Eat a healthy meal. Bring a healthy appetizer. Plan what and how much you will drink. Have a designated driver if you are drinking alcohol.
MAKE TIME FOR RELIGIOUS OR SPIRITUAL PRACTICE. For many people the holidays are a time to reconnect with their religious traditions, music and rituals. This can be a great way to release tension and gain emotional and spiritual comfort.
MAINTAIN HEALTHY HABITS. It is easy to get out of good habits during the holiday season. The days are shorter, it is cold outside and schedules can be full. Tempting treats at the office can replace a healthy lunch. It is more important than ever to keep up with healthy habits. Sunshine and exercise are good medicine. Go to sleep at the usual time and eat your veggies. Just think, you will have your new year’s resolution all set ahead of time!
SERVE OTHERS. Think about volunteering, visiting someone who is alone, dropping off small gifts at a nursing home or “adopting” an angel off of a tree. Service to others is a great way to connect with people and to forget your own troubles.
CREATE YOUR OWN HEALTHY TRADITIONS. Perhaps the annual cocktail party or heavy meal no longer fits into your lifestyle or goals. Create a new tradition. Walk in a “Gobble Wobble” on Thanksgiving morning. Plan an evening of Christmas caroling with friends. New traditions can replace or enhance old, and bring new joy and excitement to the season.
The holidays can be a time of stress for many of us, but following these simple guidelines can help you to keep yourself physically and mentally healthy.