This time of year is hard for a lot of people for a lot of reasons. Some people have seasonal mood shifts due to shorter days, colder weather, and less sunlight (click here for more info on seasonal depression). Some people are thinking of and missing loved ones they may be estranged from or have lost due to death. Others may get overwhelmed by the stressors of trying to select and buy gifts they can’t even afford! For various reasons, people struggle. Stress levels go up, and people can get more depressed and anxious. But, the holidays don’t have to be a miserable time of year. Here are some of my suggestions for having a safe and happy holiday season.
1. Connect with friends and family. If you have positive relationships with family, try to figure out ways to connect with them. Maybe you can’t get to them in person, but you could arrange to video chat or put in a phone call when you know others will be together. Spend time with friends if you can’t get to family. The holidays can be a great time to reconnect with people you haven’t kept in touch with, or to try to mend relationships that may be in need of repairing. If you’ve lost a loved one, take some time to honor and remember them as a part of the holidays. Perhaps you can do this by continuing a tradition they loved, lighting a candle, looking at pictures, or simply talking about them! Just because they are physically gone doesn’t mean they are no longer a part of your family. Another option is to connect with social or religious groups. Relationships matter.
2. Give back. Altruism is a great thing to do any time of year, but during the holiday season when we can get caught up in materialism and “stuff,” it can be helpful to have some perspective and take some time to be (or give) a gift to someone less fortunate than you. For the past couple years, my family has chosen to do that instead of giving gifts for Christmas. Some years we will adopt a family, or volunteer to serve a meal, or give a monetary gift to someone in need. Maybe you know of a friend who is lonely or isolated this time of year and you can set aside an afternoon to spend time with them- what a gift!
3. Set some boundaries. One of the great gifts we can give to ourselves and others is to be honest about our limitations around this season. Set a budget and stick to it. Is that Christmas gift really worth 13 months of credit card interest? Perhaps it’s letting family know that they won’t get gifts this year, or that they will get hand made gifts (my favorite!!) Perhaps it’s knowing that as much as you love your family, being around them for too long will be stressful. Maybe the boundary is internal and you need to balance social time with some alone time. Everybody is different so listen to your own needs! For me, I love family time, and it’s important to get some serious alone time. Blame the introversion. So, I work to balance social time with carving out time for me.
4. Remember what this is all about. Perhaps this should have been the first bullet. For me as a Christian, the real purpose of this season is an anticipation and excitement that God thought enough of me to send a Savior, born into humble circumstances for a divine purpose. When I think about the gravity of that gift, any item I can buy in a store pales in comparison. Sometimes we get so lost in the commercialism that we lose a sense of wonder and gratitude. Focusing on the true meaning of the celebration can keep us in check.
5. Keep up the self-care. A lot of times people’s schedules change during the holidays, and it can be easy to lose track of your sleep schedule, exercise regimen, and let’s not forget the holiday desserts! It’s important to try to keep up the things you normally do to try to keep yourself healthy. I’m not saying don’t indulge, because for some people that would be unreasonable, but also keep in mind that those schedules serve to regulate our minds and bodies and losing them can exacerbate the potential for holiday stress.
These certainly aren’t all the tips, but hopefully they can be a good start. The important thing is to do what you need to do to take care of yourself. For more tips, check out this Mayo Clinic Article: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20047544
Thanks for reading and make Well Choices!