It’s the most wonderful time of the year… or is it? Holidays can be a magical time to be with family and friends, but they also pose a greater risk of elevated stress levels and in some cases can lead to depression and even suicide. We love to celebrate the season at OUC, but we acknowledge the importance of allowing room for self care. Holiday stress affects the majority of the population on various levels. Holiday stress is usually related to feeling overwhelmed by a sense of lacking enough time or money – when these feelings become exacerbated they can have adverse affects on your health – before stress takes away all your joy this season, we suggest you try the following coping strategies.
- Understand your feelings and know you’re not alone. The holidays are particularly hard if you have suffered a loss. Grief and sadness are a healthy part of mourning. Allow yourself the space to feel and know that it is normal to be sad even when others are in the holiday spirit.
- Ask for help. If you feel isolated, rather than hunkering down, try to seek out community, religious or other social events. We find that one of the best ways to help yourself is to help others. Volunteering not only gives back, but can help you make new human connections and memories.
- Be okay with imperfection. No holiday is perfect. And no holiday is the same. While traditions are part of many holiday celebrations, that doesn’t mean that you need to attempt or force something if it no longer feels right. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. Baking a million cookies or hitting up every light display in town could lead to less merry if all it does is create pressure and more obligations.
- Set aside differences. There is no better time to remind ourselves that kindness goes a long way. Work to accept family members and friends as they are. The new year might present a better time to address issues and grievances.
- Don’t break the bank! Before you go shopping for gifts or entertaining, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with gifts. We love the family gift exchange as an option to eliminate the feeling of needing to buy gifts for all.
- Plan. Plan specific days for shopping, baking, and social outings. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. This help to diminish financial stress as well as prevent rushing around.
- Learn to say no. Saying yes all the time will only leave you feeling resentful and take away from the things that bring joy and really matter. Set boundaries and understand that saying no doesn’t mean that you are a Scrooge, rather that you are aware of your needs and want to be healthy and happy.
- Don’t forget to maintain healthy habits. When you overindulge it can add to your stress and guilt. Additionally, alcohol will heighten feelings of sadness and depression. We recommend having a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t eat too much and minimize drinking. Get plenty of sleep; this is one of the best ways to reduce stress. And make sure to incorporate regular physical activity on a daily basis.
- Exercise your right for self care Spending 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may rejuvenate you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress such as a walk, reading a book, or getting a massage and give yourself permission to do it.
- Seek professional help if you need it. It might be that no matter how many of these strategies that you try to incorporate, you might still find yourself feeling persistently sad, anxious, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face your daily routine. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.
Don’t let the holidays become something you fear or want to avoid.