The idea of the Hallmark Holidays with loved ones sounds amazing. Whether you are celebrating Christmas, Hanukah or Kwanzaa, this time of year brings happiness and cheer…or does it? The holidays…a time for food and fun…a time for friends and family, but now I have to make the roast, clean the house, decorate, shop for gifts, and there is not enough time..ACK! Does your holiday feel like this? Do you find that you are dreading hosting Christmas for thirty people? Are you cringing at the thought of having to be in the same room with certain family members? Do the holidays bring stress, anxiety or depression? Here are some helpful ways to manage top stressors during the holidays and to maintain your sanity
Limit your time- Know your limits and have an action plan! If you know you have to spend time with someone you dislike, like an in-law, make sure to have an exit strategy. Create a safe word with your spouse. When you’ve reached your limit, call out that safe word. You can then say goodbye and make your exit. If you are hosting and can’t leave, call the safe word and tag in your partner while you take a needed time out. The holidays can be equated to a team sport- reinforcements are needed.
Validate your feelings- The holidays are not always joyous for people. This can be a time of year that brings depression and loneliness to many. It is okay to feel sadness, loneliness, and anxiety. This time of year people may be faced with financial hardship, loss of a loved one, or struggling with memories of past holidays. Allow yourself space to feel, and then create a plan to effectively deal with the holiday blues. This can include spending time outdoors, helping someone in need, staying busy, talking with a friend or counselor, or even creating a new tradition.
Learn to say no- Feeling overwhelmed by all of the holiday party invites? Guess what, you don’t have to go! Be sure to choose the ones where you will feel the most comfortable, and say no to the rest. Do not feel guilty for declining invitations. If it stresses you out to be with people you don’t know or like, do not feel pressured to put yourself in a position where you won’t enjoy yourself. If you do decide to go, follow the buddy system and make a plan to stick together. When you have reached your limit, thank your host and leave.
Create new traditions- Why do you have to have lasagna for Christmas? Why do you need to give gifts to everyone when you are struggling financially this year?—just because that’s what you’ve always done? It’s okay to change things up and break away from tradition. Start a new tradition and/or set some boundaries. Let your mother and father know you won’t be doing any gifts this year with the adults and just getting something small for your nieces and nephews. Make a pot roast if you’re tired of the same old lasagna! It’s okay to be different!
Set Boundaries- Worried the political divide is still lingering since the election results? Will Aunt Debbie a huge Trump supporter be able to sit across from Uncle Pete a Hilary supporter? Be proactive and set boundaries with family members calling your house a neutral territory where politics, religion, and any other sensitive topics are left at the door!
Don’t expect miracles- If your holiday anxiety stems from ongoing family conflict and history, don’t expect a Christmas miracle! You won’t be resolving anything this holiday season you can’t count on leading family members to emotional break-throughs just because this is the time of year for forgiveness and good will. Lower your expectations and let it go. Focus your attention on those around you who make you happy- deal with your conflicts during a less volatile time of year. This will lessen your anxiety and help to keep your sanity.
Ultimately, self-awareness and self-care are the most important tools in overcoming the obstacles of anxiety and stress. While holiday stress may be seasonal, some depression and anxiety are year round. If you feel like your symptoms are exacerbated during this time of year or interfering with work or home life, be sure to consult with your doctor or counselor.