The holidays are a magical time of year. After-all, it is the time of year to celebrate peace, joy and love! It is the time of year when we can take time-away from our busy lives to enjoy the company of our families. At least this is what all the magazines, movies, and commercials for ham tell us the holidays are about. In reality, the rest of us know that holidays can be SO stressful. There are parties and dinners to attend and plan, kids are out-of-school, and there is always that one person who is impossible to find a gift for [or get along with]. It is easy to let the holidays take over your life and ruin your mental and physical health. Keep in mind that we are supposed to use this time away from the grind to celebrate and renew ourselves too; but if you are stressed, it is a dead give-away that you need to re-prioritize how you are spending your holidays!
Difficult emotions. The holidays can kick-up extremely difficult emotions; especially if you are grieving or you are unable to be with all your loved ones this year. Maybe you have recently lost a friend or family member, or you broke-off a relationship or finalized a divorce. Whatever the loss is that you are feeling, the most important thing you can do is acknowledge your feelings instead of ignoring them. Grief is real and if suppressed, it can cause a life-time of health issues! Often it is helpful to start a new tradition or downsize a celebration while grieving . Remember that you do not have to be happy just because it is the holidays. It is important to keep your expectations realistic; this year’s holidays do not have to be perfect or exactly like last year’s. Surround yourself with a few trusted individuals who you can be 100% yourself around. Gently express that you are struggling and ask for support.
Budget everything. And I am not just talking financially; budget your time and your commitments over the next week. Yes, you could bake 3 pies from scratch, all of your old holiday cookie recipes, and volunteer at the soup kitchen if you wanted to; but are those things all the best use of your time? What is your body and mind needing with this time off? Over committing yourself during the holidays will leave you starting the New Year tired and stressed. Instead, do not abandon the things you do for yourself like exercise, meditation or even a date night. Find time for your holiday activities around your current schedule. Making time to recharge your batteries is not selfish; it is essential for your mental and physical well-being . If you feel yourself being pulled in too many directions, make a list of your priorities. Give your top priorities the time and attention they deserve, and if you do not have time to bake those pies, pick them up at the grocery store and turn-off the Pinterest guilt!
Saying “no” is a must for managing stress. I feel like this goes hand-in-hand with the above! If you do not have time to make it to every relative’s house on Christmas Day, just say I am sorry, but we are going for low-key and hanging at home this afternoon! Get together a few days later or offer to do a New Years Day drop-in! It is better to politely decline up-front than to stress yourself (and family) out or have conflict with someone you care about. The holidays are for celebrating and spending time with loved ones, not running around frazzled and frantic. Saying no will allow you to do something that lights you up, and that is not selfish at all! Are you hearing the word –boundaries – in the back of your mind? Good.
Stop the perfection. Why is this one so hard? And why do I get irritated when someone calls me out for being a perfectionist? I think it is because deep-down, none of us really want to be perfectionists. The badge of honor comes with a high-price and usually our health – at some point – if we are not careful! Do not let the Food channel, Pinterest, or any magazine or blog make you think your loved ones need a wreath made out of homemade candy canes, with non-GMO ingredients and no Red Dye #40!! Your friends and family will remember the time you spent together, not the material objects around you or the perfectly ironed cloth napkins. For those who struggle with this, identify what you plan to do and then dial it back a few notches! You would be shocked at how effective this strategy can be…chances are, your plan will still work well, but you wont wear yourself down trying to do it!
Enjoy your holidays!
- Handling holidays and difficult times. (2011). The Harvard Mental Health Letter / From Harvard Medical School, 28(6), 7.
- Holiday depression and stress. Mental Health America. http://www.mhawisconsin.org/holidaystress.aspx.
- Making the Most of the Holiday Season. American Psychological Association. http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/holiday-season.aspx