How To Manage Stress During Holidays
MENTAL HEALTH AND THE HOLIDAYS
The holidays can be stressful, exciting, anxious, and disappointing all at the same time. The hustle and bustle of the season is bound to push the limits on some people’s emotions. For others, the holidays bring back memories of past not-so-good holidays, lost loved ones, or loneliness. Many people feel like they have a responsibility to make the holidays as good as possible for their families and children, which replaces the joy of the season with anxiety and unmet expectations.
So how do you enjoy the holidays, really enjoy them, without letting all this extra baggage weigh you down? I want you to be at your best for this holiday and all the ones to come. Think about it this way. If you treat your mental health and wellbeing with as much fervor as you have for Black Friday shopping, Christmas movies, and finding the perfect stocking stuffers, its like a Christmas gift to yourself. Your holidays, family, and your overall wellbeing will thank you for being at your best.
Holiday statistics show that up to 69% of people are stressed by a “lack of time”, 69% are also stressed by a “lack of money” and 50% are stressed about the “pressure to give or get good gifts”. (Clarity Clinic) This is a lot of pressure, stress, and expectations! Phew. It seems to me that most of us could use some stress relief. First things first, to reduce stress, you have to set realistic expectations and goals. You don’t have to achieve the designer, picture perfect, Joanna-Gaines-Christmas to have a memorable holiday. If you stress about achieving a perfect Christmas, the sad truth is you likely won’t have one. By setting realistic expectations, you give yourself attainable, reasonable goals and a plan that you can put into practice. If you’re in the nearly 70% of people who feel like they don’t have enough time, I hear you. 24 hours in the day doesn’t feel like enough. If you tend to make too many plans and then can’t complete them, prioritize what’s really important to you. If your family has holiday traditions, make sure to plan ahead so you’re ready and aren’t rushing on the day of tree decorating or shopping on Christmas Eve.
Take a mental breather. This time of year is so beautiful, magical, and is supposed to inspire thankfulness and wonder. If you’re stressing and running around for two months straight, you’ll only wear yourself out and then be too tired to appreciate the true beauty of the season.
Delegate. Many people have trouble delegating tasks because they don’t want to ask anyone else for help, or they feel obligated to do it all yourself. Your spouse, kids, family, and even friends can all help with of the holiday tasks that get away from you. If you need to make cookies for your child’s Christmas party, invite a friend over and do it together. If you are behind on Christmas shopping, enlist your spouse to help, maybe you can even bribe them with those Christmas cookies.
The holidays most always = family gatherings. Sadly, many people don’t have a well-functioning family. Maybe spending time around your family is so stressful that you start to get anxiety around seeing that uncle that makes you uncomfortable or the cousin that you don’t get along with. The stereotypical conversations about politics and religion are bound to come up, so prepare yourself with the proper mindset before the holidays.
Set up healthy boundaries. If there is a situation or person that makes you uncomfortable, make sure you are very clear about your boundaries. They are healthy for you and essential to preserve your mental health when you’re in uncomfortable situations.
Don’t put yourself in uncomfortable situations. If you know that you don’t get along with a certain person, don’t willingly put yourself in a situation where you would be uncomfortable. If you can’t control the situation you’re in, just be aware and remember, boundaries are key.
Choose grace. If it’s not a situation that is emotionally, mentally, spiritually, or physically dangerous or damaging to you or your family, choose to be gracious. If someone that you see around the holidays just annoys or irks you, and we all have them, choose to be kind, gracious, and loving. 1 Corinthians 13:4 says, “Love suffers long and is kind.” Choose to be kind and gracious this holiday season if it’s a situation where it’s possible.
This time of year is full of lights, presents, parties, and love, but for some people it’s very hard. If you’re alone for the first time this holiday season, or have recently lost a loved one, the quickly approaching Christmas season might be daunting and depressing. If you’re feeling down or blue, don’t feel bad. This time of year can bring up hard memories and feelings. S.A.D. What in the world is S.A.D.? S.A.D. stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder. Well, as the seasons change, the weather changes and the sun goes down earlier. This means less daylight and longer nights. Your body measures time based on the sun rising and setting. These are called your circadian rhythms. They control your sleep schedule, hormone levels, and digestion, which all greatly affect your mood and emotions. If you feel like every year during the winter you get SAD, you could possibly have S.A.D.
Some things you can do to help is get sun while you can. Spend time outside while it’s light out, take a walk in the morning or on your lunch break. If you never see the sun, your circadian rhythms will definitely start to go off course, which will cause emotional imbalances and lead to depression, anxiety, or insomnia.
Grief. If you’re grieving a loss this season, I sincerely offer my condolences and prayers to you. Grief is hard, whether it’s a loved one, pet, friend, or relationship. Sometimes it’s just an anniversary or thinking about the holidays without that person or thing that is so hard. If you’re grieving, reach out for support. You shouldn’t have to do this alone, find someone who you can lean on. If you don’t have someone, look up a support group in your area. Even if it’s just a Facebook community group, you can still find community and understanding in shared experiences.
Don’t fight it. It’s okay to grieve, so give yourself the freedom to process any and all emotions you may feel. You can grieve your loss and you shouldn’t feel guilty. However, you can still experience other emotions and make memories through your grief. Don’t put yourself in a box or on a timeline, grief is individual. Allow yourself to go at your own pace. Remember the love you have for what you’ve lost during this season instead of focusing on the pain.
TO WRAP THIS UP
I love Christmas. I know most of you probably do too. The message at the core of this whole newsletter is to enjoy the moment you’re in. If you spend all your time wishing for something better or something else, all you’ll be is disappointed. This season is meant to be a joyful, wonderful reminder of the love that God has for us and the beautiful gift that He gave us with His son Jesus Christ. Sure, we can enjoy Christmas parties, exchange presents, and watch Christmas movies. But in all of that, don’t forget the most important message at the core of Christmas. Jesus loves you and Christmas is about celebrating that love with the people that you love. In the words of Linus, “that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” 🙂