Beat Holiday Stress
8 Helpful Ways to beat stress and depression during the Holidays:
1. Take time for yourself.
Remember that you’re only one person and can only accomplish certain things. Sometimes self-care is the best thing you can do — others will benefit when you’re stress- free. Go for a long walk, get a massage or take time out to listen to your favorite music or read a new book. All of us need some time to recharge our batteries — by slowing down you will actually have more energy to accomplish your goals.
2. Have realistic expectations.
No Christmas, or other holiday celebration is perfect. View inevitable missteps as opportunities to demonstrate flexibility and resilience. A lopsided tree or a burned brisket won’t ruin your holiday; rather, it will create a family memory. If your children’s wish list is outside your budget, talk to them about the family's finances this year and remind them that the holidays aren't about expensive gifts.
Many charitable organizations are also suffering due to the economic downturn. Find a local charity, such as a soup kitchen or a shelter where you and your family can volunteer. Also, participating in a giving tree or an adopt-a-family program, and helping those who are living in true poverty may help you put your own economic struggles in perspective.
4. Define your personal limits and then stick to them.
Decide for yourself how much you want to participate in activities, entertain guests, visit with relatives, or travel during the holidays. There is no one correct way to enjoy the season, so lose the guilt about choosing your own schedule. You'll feel more in charge of your own life, and less likely to feel stressed or depressed.
5. Acknowledge your feelings.
If someone close to you has recently died or you can't be with loved ones, realize that it's normal to feel sadness and grief. It's OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can't force yourself to be happy just because it's the holiday season.
6. Don't abandon healthy habits.
Don't let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Try these suggestions:
- Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don't go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Incorporate regular physical activity into each day.
7. Take control of the holidays.
Don't let the holidays become something you dread. Instead, take steps to prevent the stress and depression that can descend during the holidays. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or personal demands, so you can combat them before they lead to a meltdown. With a little planning and some positive thinking, you can find peace and joy during the holidays.
8. Change your thoughts.
We all have moments in which we increase our own anxiety by worrying about that which we cannot completely control. These thoughts are often unrealistic, inaccurate, or to some extent, unreasonable. Catch those thoughts, think about them and how they affect you, and change them to more helpful, adaptive thoughts. You can control your thoughts so change them to help yourself.
The Holidays don’t have to be something to dread or just get through, you can help yourself enjoy the holidays by taking action.
If you are experiencing depression, talk to your doctor or primary care provider. A referral from your physician or provider to Behavioral Health Center outpatient clinic could be the answer to getting yourself back on track.
Mary C Theuer, LPC
Behavioral Health Center, Amery Hospital & Clinic