Whether it’s the shorter days with less sunlight, or the rush of the shopping season, it seems to me that the holidays are a time when stress and depression are at their all-time worst. And it isn't really surprising. It takes a lot of elbow grease and effort if you want to compete against the picture perfect Norman Rockwell holiday.
It’s because of this pressure that people find themselves burdened under tons of demands – work, gift shopping, party planning, cooking, cleaning, there are a million different things to do.
Then there’s the obligation of caring for aging parents with special needs or tending to our own children or grandchildren home on school break – sometimes all three scenario arrive at once!
Obviously this means goodbye to any hope for rest and relaxation over the holidays, right?
Well, not if I can help it.
That’s why I’ve put together a little short checklist for you (and me) to follow this year. With a little practical planning, you can minimize the holiday stress and depression. This means more time to enjoy the vacation the coming holidays are offering.
When the holiday stress is at its peak, it becomes difficult to stop and compose yourself. Here are some tips you can try to rid yourself of holiday stress:
1. Acknowledge your feelings. Don't force yourself to be happy during the holidays even if you've just lost a loved one or if you're feeling sad that you can't spend the holidays with your loved ones. It's OK now and then to take time just to cry or express your feelings.
2. Seek support. If you're feeling down, seek out family members and friends. They can offer support and companionship. Seek members of your community or faith. You don't have to go through the holiday stress alone.
3. Be realistic. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Hold on to those you cherish - But accept that you may have to let go of others.
4. Learn to set aside your differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don't live up to all your expectations. There’s a saying that goes like this, “If someone is driving your crazy, i9t’s because you’ve handed them the keys…” Instead, set aside any grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion.
5. Stick to a budget. I’ll admit this is a tough one for me what helped was deciding how much money I would be willing to spend on gifts and other items -before- going shopping. If you can do this, you’ll be sure to stick to your budget.
6. Plan ahead of the holidays. Set aside specific days for holiday shopping, cooking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make one big food-shopping trip. That'll help prevent a last-minute scramble to buy forgotten ingredients. Oh, and learn t expect the unexpected; like expect there to be travel delays, especially if you're flying.
7. It's okay to say no. People will understand if you can't do certain projects or activities. Say yes only to what you really want to do and you'll avoid feeling put-upon; resentful, bitter and overwhelmed.
8. Don't abandon healthy habits. This is an important one! Don't let the holidays steer you off of your healthy lifestyle. Some indulgence is okay, but a steady stream of overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don't go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks.
9. Take a breather. Make time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Sneak off to a quiet place, take a walk at night and stargaze, or listen to soothing music. Heck, book a massage with me if you think that will help. But do find something that reduces your stress.
10. Rethink resolutions. If you’re one to set New Year’s Resolutions for yourself, here’s a big tip: Don't resolve to change your whole life to make up for past excess. You’ll only be setting yourself up for frustration and failure. Instead, try setting smaller, more specific goals with a reasonable time frame. Choose only those resolutions that help you feel valuable and that provide more than only fleeting moments of happiness.
And a final word - Forget about perfection.
By now we are old enough to know that “something” always comes up to mess up our best laid plans. The best defense is to simply accept imperfections in yourself and in others.
That said, I think the biggest key to minimizing holiday stress and depression is knowing that the holidays will trigger stress and depression. Accept that things won't always go as planned. And when you take steps to manage stress and depression during the holidays, you may actually enjoy them more than you thought you could.
Happy Holidays, and Keep Moving Toward a Better You!