Healthy Holiday Habits
Stress Management and the Holiday Season
Holidays are a stressful time because of all the family gatherings, work parties, spending money on gifts, baking 3 dozen cookies. It can be especially stressful and emotional if you have lost someone. No matter the situation, it’s good to have some tips under your belt to help you deal with whatever stress this holiday season brings.
The Mayo Clinic gives us some pointers for preventing excess stress and depression during the holidays. Some of the main ones are as follows:
Acknowledge your feelings and reach out for help. It’s normal to feel sad if you can’t be near your family, or if you’ve lost someone recently, or even if your family situation is not what you hoped for. It’s healthy to cry and let those emotions out. It’s also important to know that you can reach out to family, friends, the faith community, or local support groups to feel less alone.
Be realistic and set a budget. Your Thanksgiving meal doesn’t need to be perfect. Forgot the cranberry sauce? The world will not collapse around you. As we grow older in life it can be hard to get all of our family together, so try not to be upset because someone can’t make it to dinner. Holidays are about spending time with people close to you and celebrating, not just gifts. You don’t need to put yourself into debt trying to impress people with material gifts. Here are some pointers for affordable and meaningful gifts:
Draw names and exchange gifts (each person buys one gift)
Donate to a charity or nonprofit organization in someone’s honor
Make homemade gifts (think picture frames, blankets, ornaments)
Still make time for yourself! This means walking away from the family dinner table when politics come up, or watching cheesy Christmas movies to make you happy. Holiday foods are about balance, too. You can allow yourself to enjoy two pieces of pie without feeling extremely guilty, just make sure that you eat some salad in there too. If you beat yourself up about the food you eat then you’re going to be in a bad mood.
Seek help if you need it. This is last, but definitely not least. Sometimes the stress, anxiety, or depression is too much for us to handle on our own. And that’s okay! It’s okay to not be okay 100% of the time. Reach out to your primary care doctor or a mental health provider in your area.
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Lauren Blackburn, LCSW