The holiday season can bring mixed emotions for many. For some, it’s their favorite time of year. For others, it brings feelings of sadness and loss. Seeing old friends and family members may be exciting or may bring up memories of disappointments.
Do you ever get together with your family and notice you’ve suddenly become that 13-year-old teenager again who’s arguing with your parents or siblings? Or perhaps you find yourself looking at a sibling and thinking for the first time in 20 years, “Mom always loved her better.” Sometimes when we see family members, we revert to old childhood patterns which may hurt us and remind us of difficult times. Even though we think we’ve worked through these patterns, they just seem to crop right back up.
Feeling depressed or anxious is not unusual during the holiday season. Upcoming dinners, parties, and other family or friend gatherings may cause a great deal of stress. These feelings may be even worse for those who have experienced divorce, lost a loved one, are living far from family and friends, etc.
1. Keep Your Regular Routine
A change in routine can lead to additional stress. Try to exercise at your usual time, go to meetings that you normally go to, and stick to as normal a diet as you possibly can.
2. Think Moderation
While it may be easy to drink and eat too much at parties and special dinners, we should 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.
3. Be Realistic
So many of us have an idealized version of what the holidays should be like and are very disappointed when they don’t live up to those expectations. Try to be realistic. Remember, nobody has a perfect holiday or perfect family.
4. Stay Connected
Make sure to leave time to spend with friends and/or family who value you. And if they don’t live close by, call them for a “reality check” or some “grounding.” Remember to ask for support if you need it.
5. Throw Guilt Out the Window
Try not to put unreasonable pressure on yourself to be happy, to rejoice, or even to enjoy the holidays. Likewise, try not to over analyze your interactions with others. Give yourself a break this holiday season.
6. Don’t Be Alone, if You Don’t Want to Be
If you anticipate spending the holidays alone, try to volunteer somewhere, like in a soup kitchen, with children in group homes, or the elderly in various facilities. People will so appreciate you that you may feel better about yourself, but more importantly, you’ll have company.
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 with family members, 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. 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. Just Say No
It’s OK to say no when you’re asked to do more than you can. It’s fine to say no to some invitations and fine to say no to those asking for favors. Remember, this is your holiday too!
9. Ask for Help
Holidays are often a time people attempt to take on too much or do too much on their own. It’s OK to ask for help from family and friends. Whether for decorating, shopping, cooking, or a shoulder to lean on, ASK.
10. Be Good to Yourself
If you’re feeling blue, pamper yourself. Do what feels good, and what you want to do. Try to take a walk or 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.
The holidays only come once a year and only last for a few weeks. If you follow these 10 tips, you might just find this year to be more joyful and less stressful.
Have a peaceful holiday season!
Linda Walter LCSW