Surviving the holidays
The holidays are usually defined as a time of family get-togethers, good food and drink, and relaxation. But for a lot of us, the holidays are difficult in a number of ways. Going into debt, dealing with family conflict, high stress, travel and marital discord, depression, and anxiety characterize the experience of many these days. You maximize your chances for a fulfilling holiday season if you’re willing to consider these things:
- Know your limits: Whether money, time, food, or alcohol, it is important know your limits. If you’re not doing things in moderation, you are more likely to over extend yourself physically, mentally, or emotionally. Practice graciously declining, learning to say “no” when it is the best thing for you will ultimately help you and those closest to you enjoy the holidays to their fullest potential.
- Watch for holiday mental health hazards: This is a memorable season, and for some, those memories are more haunting than festive. This is a time that we can reflect back on our year, for better or for worse. If you’ve experienced a difficult year, the holidays have a way of amplifying struggles and loss. If you anticipate that the holidays will be challenging for you, reach out to friends or family and let them you need some extra support during this time of year. If support is not easily found, contact a counselor for help with coping strategies.
- Practice effective communication skills: Clear communication is essential during the holiday season. There’s so much going on, the opportunities to communicate poorly are endless. Making the extra effort to state your needs while realizing that your priorities may not be the priorities of others.
- Don’t avoid conflict: If you’re having an issue with someone, be direct with them and don’t beat around the bush. Holding in frustration or anger is only going to make things worse, whether you’re having an argument with a family member during Thanksgiving or squabbling in that pre-Christmas spat with your loved one, don’t avoid conflict.
- Developing a holiday stress management plan: whatever you do to cope with stress, keep doing it! Diet, exercise, and sleep tend to be easy to let go of while keeping up with holiday demands but they are also the very things that help keep us steady in times of stress. Know and pay attention to your stress symptoms. Practice being present by focusing on all your senses in a given moment. Take time to notice the scents and sounds of the holidays, the air temperature against your skin, the taste of a holiday goody, and the decorations that surround you.
- Plan: Good planning helps avoid last minute crises. Whether that means budgeting for gifts, scheduling shopping, or getting your clothes ready before the morning of your flight out, you’ll be glad you set forth to take care of business before hand. Good planning will help prevent stress and conflict which will make the holidays more enjoyable for all.
- Create exit strategy: holiday gatherings can be overwhelming. Especially extended stays. Even the most harmonious family will start to feel the effects when routines are interrupted and privacy is limited for an extended amount of time. Make a point to take some time away for yourself. Go for a walk, a drive, or offer to run errands. If you exercise regularly, locate a nearby gym or walking trail and continue your routine. Taking time out to breath, collect your thoughts, or just to enjoy some quiet will ultimately help you better engage with others during the holidays.