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The holiday season is well underway, with happiness, cheer, and a never-ending list of to-dos. Maybe some not-so-happy feelings, too?
We’ve all been there. The pressure to find the perfect gift, decorate the house, make a fancy meal, and attend all the holiday parties. Oh, and did you get your holiday cards out on time?
While the holidays are intended to come with laughter and enjoyment, for many, the stress that accompanies the season trumps the positive spirit of the season.
However, with some much-needed reminders and helpful tips, you can minimize the stress and high emotions of this holiday season. You may even enjoy it all more than you expected!
Make a Plan
Making a plan with your immediate family, partner, and friends can help you determine what needs to happen and when. Any steps you can take now to prevent a last-minute scramble can help beat holiday stress.
Writing down your plans can help you identify whether or not they’re realistic. Prioritize the events and gatherings most special to you and work around the rest.
The holiday season brings with it added pressure for a perfect Hallmark scene.
But let’s be honest. The holidays don’t have to be perfect. It’s okay if traditions change. Choose a couple of your favorites, or find free activities for your family, and be open to cutting back when possible. If you find yourself exhausted by January each year, think about making some changes, so it’s not so go-go-go!
You are only one person. Be realistic with yourself and others about what you can take on. Enjoy the small moments, cherish this season, and lean on your support system!
Do a Mental Check-In
We often check in on others, but do we return the favor to ourselves?
Pausing amid the hustle and bustle allows us to connect with ourselves, our feelings, and our experiences. Acknowledge how you’re feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally. This is a great opportunity to practice mindfulness skills.
Make observations of what you’re noticing of yourself and your environment. What good experiences have you had, and what has been challenging?
In the rush of this holiday season, be sure to pause and give yourself a moment. Pamper and please yourself, too!
Respect Your Feelings
It can be uncomfortable to face big emotions, and it’s even more challenging to confront them. That’s normal and totally okay!
In the busy-ness of this season, we may be frustrated with our stress, depression, and/or anxiety. This is supposed to be a happy time, right? In truth, we know it isn’t. The feelings that come with grief and loss, loneliness, pain, and overwhelm can impact how we view this time of year.
Instead of trying to deny or push past those feelings, sit with them. Allow them some space and acknowledge their presence. Allow yourself to feel them all, without judging yourself!
Respecting your experience and acknowledging any negative feelings will help you reconnect with yourself and move forward in the holiday season with better awareness.
Ask for Help
Asking for help is perhaps the most challenging skill to master, but it’s one of the most important. This holiday season, be sure to line up your village of support.
If you need help preparing a holiday menu, contact family or friends to see what they can contribute. Line up a babysitter for some alone time if you need a few hours without your kids. Most importantly, be honest with those closest to you about your needs.
If you are especially anxious or depressed during the holidays, you can turn to community, faith, and/or social circles for support or companionship.
And, of course, seek professional help if you are in further need. If despite your best attempts, you’re feeling significantly depressed, anxious, or stressed, a doctor or mental health professional can help. Here at Idaho Youth Ranch, we can support your adolescent and family.
Bringing families together for the holidays can be very challenging due to all the different personalities and beliefs. It’s universal to experience family viewpoints different from your own, and additional time together over the holiday season can certainly contribute to additional arguments or frustrations.
With this said, see if you can call a truce this holiday season. While it can be painful when family members have opposing views, it can be equally harmful to your mental health when you attempt to change their opinion.
Family members don’t always meet our expectations, and while that can be disappointing, they’re likely working through their own holiday stress and frustrations. Instead of adding fuel to the fire, replace any tension with something more productive.
Repeat after me: No. It’s hard, right?
One of the most effective ways to set healthy boundaries during the holiday season is learning to say no. When we say yes to everything, we feel exhausted, overwhelmed, and even resentful toward family and friends.
With all the holiday commitments, it’s okay to lighten your load. Less is more.
Take a Breath
This one might sound obvious, but we often need to remember to pause, take a breath, and slow down.
When we take a few moments for mindful breathing, we can reduce harmful stress responses quickly and effectively.
Additionally, taking time for yourself this holiday season is essential. If there’s an activity you genuinely enjoy, make sure you make time for it. Use your coping skills. Take time by yourself without any distractions. Read a book, watch your favorite holiday movie, go for a winter walk, or take a nap. Don’t forget to restore your body and your mind.
Savor the Happy Moments
With all this being said, there is still so much room for enjoyment this holiday season.
There will be opportunities to laugh and connect with the ones you love most. In these very moments, savor them! Stay on the lookout for positive moments and acknowledge them. Researcher Rick Hanson calls this “Taking in the Good.” The brain naturally looks for negative experiences, so to remedy this, we must foster the positive ones in intentional ways.¹
Enjoy Your Holiday Season
We all want and hope for the holidays to be joyful, not dreadful.
Be observant of your emotions and take the necessary steps to acknowledge and respect your experiences. Combat holiday stressors ahead of time with a plan.
With some work upfront, you can have a merry holiday season.