For many people, the holidays can be a time of enjoyment with family and friends. For many others, the holidays can be a time of stress, loneliness, tension, disappointments, and arguments. The difference is often related to the dynamics within our families, the types of relationships we have, unresolved grief or trauma, substance abuse issues, financial struggles, mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, and heightened expectations. As a result, many people simply “endure” the holidays and try to “get through it” the best that they can.
To help you better manage the stress of the holidays, we have listed some steps that you can take to decrease your stress and maybe even make your holidays a little more enjoyable.
- Manage your own expectations – During the holidays, many people’s expectations rise. For example, you might expect that everyone in your family will get along during the holidays and bury their old resentments. While you might wish for this to happen, the question becomes, “Is it realistic?”If you expect things to magically change just because it is “the holidays”, you will often be disappointed. Be realistic about what you are expecting from others and learn to acknowledge the way things really are, instead of expecting things to magically become the way they “should be” during the holidays.
- Manage the expectations of others – One of the major stressors of the holidays is the heightened expectations of others. For example, you might be expected to be at multiple gatherings on the same day. As a result, you might find yourself rushing from one home to another. Rather than enjoying the event, you watch the clock so that you can get to the next event in time to keep from “disappointing” someone else. Trying to please everyone often leads to stress, tension, and resentment. Sometimes you need to ask yourself “What do I want” and then be willing to include your own needs within the decision process.
- Communicate your expectations – No one can read your mind. Don’t expect people to know what you want unless you tell them. While you may not get everything that you want, you are more likely to get more of what you want when you tell people your expectations.
- Manage your time – Holiday stress increases, in part, because of the increase in demands on our time. Be realistic about how much you can do and when you can do it. Don’t try to squeeze more and more into a day, instead, cut things out to make the pace more manageable. When crunched for time, remember the phrase, “cut don’t squeeze”.
- Schedule time for fun – It is easier to enjoy the holidays when you are doing activities that are fun. People that look forward to the holidays often create traditions that are both meaningful and enjoyable. Update your own traditions and make fun a part of them.
- Make time for exercise – Exercise is a great stress management tool. It is also a great way to burn off some of the extra calories that most of us consume during the holidays.
- Schedule time to relax – Give yourself permission to have some downtime so you can relax.
- Avoid self-medication – Some people use drugs and alcohol to “cope” with holiday stress. Unfortunately, substance abuse often creates stress, anxiety, depression, and conflicts. Limit your use of alcohol and avoid self-medicating to make it easier to enjoy the holidays.
- Be flexible – Things don’t always work out as planned. Be willing to adapt and change as the situation changes.
- Don’t sweat the small things – Don’t make everything such a big deal. In the long run, does it really matter if you arrive 5 minutes later than expected or if you bring a pie made from the store rather than the one you usually make from scratch? Over time, our families and friends tend to remember the connections we make and the mood of the event, not the insignificant details that stress us out in the moment.
- Allow time and energy for longer lines and more traffic – More people are out and about during the holidays. Expect to wait and adjust your internal clock to match the crowds that come with the holidays.
- Give to others – Giving to others often helps us feel more connected to the world around us. It also helps us get a better perspective on our own lives.
- Develop an attitude of gratitude – Develop a positive attitude about life. Look for the blessings in your own life, rather than focusing on the negatives. You will feel better if you do.
- Create new traditions – Some families have a tradition of getting together and fighting like cats and dogs during every holiday season. Ask yourself: “Is this the tradition that I would choose?”Be purposeful about your holiday traditions. Decide the type of traditions that you want and then do the actions that make these traditions a reality.
- Get support from others – Sometimes the holidays bring reminders of the losses in our life. Instead of isolating yourself, be willing to connect with others. Reach out to others and ask for support. If someone invites you to an event or gathering, go. It might not replace what you have lost but it will allow you to begin to re-connect with others.
- Seek help when needed – Sometimes more help is needed. Depression, PTSD, Grief, Anxiety, Substance Abuse, or other problems may become so overwhelming that professional help is needed. Be willing to seek the help that you need rather than trying to do it alone.
New Dimensions Can Help!
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms or problems, New Dimensions can help. Our team of experienced therapists and psychiatrists can help you overcome these challenges and help you develop the skills you need to thrive. To schedule a complementary assessment or to find out more about our programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.
Our affiliate, MHThrive, provides Individual Therapy, Couples and Marriage Counseling, and Family Therapy at our locations in Katy, The Woodlands, and the Clear Lake area of Houston, Texas. We also provide telehealth therapy for anyone who resides within the State of Texas. To schedule an appointment with one of the MHThrive therapists, contact us at 713-477-0333 or visit www.mhthrive.com to learn more.