For many it is. While the holidays can bring much joy and excitement, they can also bring more than their share of frazzle. Many reasons may be behind less-than-festive feelings at this time of year, including:
- Overwhelm. Cooking, shopping, socializing, and the numerous other demands and things to do can get to us.
- Expectations. Putting undue pressure on ourselves and others can lead to frustration and disappointment.
- Mental health problems. Anxiety, depression, and other challenges don’t simply disappear for the season and they can make it difficult to enjoy the holidays and do all of the things we would like to do.
- Losses and triggers. The holidays can be difficult reminders of lost loved ones, relationship troubles, family tension, or other challenges, making us feel more down than joyful.
So, what can we do to try and keep things manageable? In the spirit of the traditional 12 days, here are 12 tips for managing holiday stress:
1. Prioritize self-care.
Doing things to relax is always important, especially so when we are slammed with demands. Give yourself permission to do things for yourself, like taking a nap on the weekend or kicking back with a movie night at home.
2. Watch your sleep, eating, and drinking.
Too little rest and too much rich food and alcohol can take their toll. Stick to a healthy sleep schedule and balance indulgences with healthy food and lots of water.
3. Have reasonable expectations.
Sure, that holiday magic is great in all those made-for-TV movies, but we can’t expect that to always translate to real life. Take things in stride and don’t expect perfection just because it’s the holidays.
4. Give back.
Consider volunteering around the holidays. Wrap gifts at the mall or serve a community meal. Helping others is great for our own health and wellness.
5. Talk about how you’re feeling.
Not feeling festive? Talk about it with those you trust. Keeping our feelings inside and pretending we’re in the holiday mood can make us feel anxious, pressured, and worn out.
6. Change traditions that are no longer meaningful.
A friend whose husband recently passed away shared with me her plan for a new holiday tradition. Cooking the turkey on Christmas Day was always her husband’s role, and it was very emotionally difficult for anyone in her family to take that on. So, they are now going to go to the movies as their family celebration on Christmas since her husband was a movie buff. Giving herself permission to change what was no longer working helped her get excited about new memories to come that still honour her husband.
7. Identify what the holidays mean for you, not others.
We may feel pressure to keep up with what others do, but setting our own goals and priorities may help us feel more at ease. Decorating not your thing? Then pass on the lights. Love visiting with family? Make extra time for that.
8. Think about supports and self-care early.
Don’t wait until you’re overwhelmed and exhausted before you slow down and do something for yourself. Know your signs of stress and make time for self-care when you first notice them. If you know you tend to struggle around the holidays, consider making an appointment with a counsellor ahead of time to proactively prepare some coping strategies.
9. Be mindful.
Rather than getting wrapped up in the hustle and bustle, take some time to slow down and enjoy the season. Be present when visiting loved ones, celebrating your spirituality, and everything else you do.
10. Stick to a budget that works for you.
Think about what is manageable for you and make it work. Post-holiday bills may increase anxiety and stress, so plan ahead and be creative in reducing your expenses.
11. Consider shopping online.
Need gifts but don’t like crowds, fighting for parking, or wandering aimlessly for ideas? Click your way to shopping success from the comfort of your own home.
12. Keep it simple.
Reducing the demands on you can really cut back on your stress. Consider making your gathering a potluck rather than taking on all the cooking yourself, or purchase some sweets if you can’t seem to make the time to bake.
Remember…the best gift you can give yourself is a healthy, happy, and balanced you. Not just at the holidays, but all year round.
Need to talk about how you can cope better? Click here for details about our free walk-in counselling service now available four days a week in Halton.