The holidays are a magical time of year. It is a time of the year to celebrate peace, joy and love. It is when we can take time 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. The rest of us know that holidays are stressful. There are parties and dinners to attend, parties and dinners to plan, kids are out of school, and there is always that one person who is impossible to find a gift for. It is easy to let the holidays take over your life and ruin your mental and physical health. Keep in mind that the holidays are for celebrating and renewing yourself; stress is a big give-away that you need to re-prioritize how you are spending your holiday.
The holidays can kick up some difficult emotions; especially if you are grieving or you are not able to be with all your loved ones this year. The important thing to do is acknowledge your feelings instead of ignoring them. 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. A burned sweet potato casserole will not ruin dinner; it will become a new family memory.
Budget everything. Not just financially; budget your time and your commitments. Yes, you could bake fifty cupcakes, all of your holiday cookies, and volunteer at the soup kitchen if you wanted to; but are those things the best use of your time? 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 date nights. 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 fifty cupcakes, pick them up at the grocery store.
Saying “no” is a must for managing stress. If you do not have time to volunteer at the holiday carnival, just say no and donate some of those cupcakes. It is better to politely decline than to cancel when it is too late for anyone else to step in and help. The holidays are for celebrating and spending time with loved ones. Do not let the Food channel or any magazine make you think your loved ones need a wreath made out of candy canes. Your friends and family will remember the time you spent together, not the material objects around you.
- 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