Reduce Holiday Stress for a Happier Holiday
Do you ever feel that things don’t go as planned during the holidays? Whether it’s staying mindful with food and not uncomfortably over-indulging or feeling disappointed when family members revert to old patterns of behavior, it’s easy to feel let down after the holiday build up. The holidays are a time of joy and celebration, of giving thanks and connecting with loved ones. For many, however, the holidays can feel lonely, stressful and joyless. There’s so much to do for some and reminders of what’s missing for others. Here are some strategies to help you cope with the holidays.
1. Identify what you want for the holiday season. Take some time to imagine how you would prefer to spend your time, what activities you enjoy doing and create holiday cheer for you, which people you enjoy sharing with. Think about what would make the holiday season special, joyful, or rewarding for you. Then consider what that would mean in terms of how you spend your time and energy. You don’t actually have to do everything. Think of ways you could combine some of your preferences. Could decorating be a fun family event? Could you go shopping with a friend?
2. Take care of yourself physically. This can be especially challenging during the holidays! It certainly doesn’t mean depriving yourself. Rather, it might mean finding the balance between enjoying holiday foods and getting in your fruits and veggies as well. Or going for a walk after a big meal. It might also mean getting some rest after a day of busyness to give yourself time to relax and unwind. Plan your schedule the best you can to avoid last minute late nights so you can get the rest you deserve. Try and find one way to stay in balance each day and avoid the temptation to say, “what the heck, I can start over tomorrow, next week, in Jan…” Keep in mind, this might not look the same as other months, when there’s less on your plate, so be gentle with yourself and keep it simple.
3. Set realistic expectations for others. Do you recall the good times of connecting with others and forget the hurt feelings, frustrations, disappointments, or anger? Or do you hope that with the right planning, things will go smoother this year? Regardless of your intention, remember to be realistic about your expectations. Think back to the past and ask yourself, honestly, how are things really? Rather than trying to fix things and make it better, do what you can and keep your expectations in check. People won’t suddenly change despite the wonderful presents, cooking, or decorations. Identify areas you have felt stress in relation with others and plan what you could do differently this year if anything. Your only option might be to set more realistic expectations, but you might also consider having someone to talk to, spending more time with supportive individuals and limiting time with difficult individuals.
4. Set realistic expectations for yourself. What’s your budget? If funds are low, perhaps you can draw a name in the family vs. buying a present for everyone. Review your past holidays and identify where you’ve gotten stressed. What can you do differently? Are there tasks you can cut out this year? Can you aim for “good enough” on the food or decorations vs. “outstanding”? It’s easy to get caught up in ideas and plans, all with great intentions. Look to your past to see what is realistic for yourself.
5. Practice mindful eating. You may be going to holiday parties and enjoying a variety of dishes that aren’t around at other times of the year. Be mindful about your choices and really enjoy each bite until you feel satisfied! If you are at a buffet, view the selection and choose the things you want to try. Take a moment to savor each bite vs. eating quickly or eating while quite distracted. You’ll get greater satisfaction from your food if you experience and savor each bite. Try it and see how you feel.
6. Check in with yourself daily. Do the best you can to check in and recognize how you’re doing. Notice how you’ve attuned to your physical and emotional self. Pay attention to your needs. You might not be able to meet all of your needs, but take some time to at least acknowledge them. It can be easy to get caught up in the doing without realizing your needs are going unmet.
7. Nurture gratitude. Yes, it’s been said before. However, there is so much truth in how our attitude or approach to a situation can impact our mental health. Take a moment to notice what you have vs. have not. Appreciate or even enjoy the simple things. Expressing gratitude can deepen your connection to the world around you. Taking a moment to express to a partner, friend, or family member your appreciation, even of something very small, can make a big difference in your connection. Expressing gratitude is not intended to take away from what is difficult for you, but simply to acknowledge both. Things are hard and I can be grateful that I have ….
Remember, you are the best expert of yourself. Think back to times you have coped in the past. What worked for you? Did you say no to excess demands of your time, set boundaries for yourself, dance in your living room?
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