By Shelby Cranshaw
Posted in Mental Health Resources
There is no question that the holidays are stressful. Unrealistic expectations can lead to disappointment; extended visits with family can result in challenging interactions, and busy schedules can force us to throw self-care plans out the window. To help and avoid all these holiday pitfalls and stressors we’ve put together some tips to keep in mind when navigating this hectic season.
Make time for yourself. Throughout the holiday season, you probably spend more time than usual with coworkers, friends, and family. Invitations for holiday parties and plans can pull you in so many directions that it becomes easy to abandon your own self-care. Of course, you want to make time to see those who are important to you, but your own wellbeing needs to be a priority. This holiday season, make a conscious effort to not fall out of your self-care routine. Don’t let your exercise, therapy, or healthy habits fall by the wayside. Remember to check in with yourself to see how you are doing. If you need to take an evening to yourself to cook a meal or get to the exercise class you’ve been putting off, go ahead and do it.
Don’t overbook. The holiday season can feel long and exhausting. Everyone seems to be in the mood to celebrate. It is tempting to say yes to every invitation that is sent your way, but don’t be afraid to say no to some plans. Be realistic about what you can handle. If you have to decline an invitation, it’s okay. You need to do what is best for you, and a good coworker, friend, or family member will understand that.
It’s okay if your plans are low-key. People are really good at making it seem like they are having the time of their lives on social media. In reality, those Christmas or New Year’s Eve parties probably aren’t that fun. You do not need to have crazy plans to have an enjoyable holiday season. In fact, it might be more enjoyable if you don’t. If you opt to have a low-key night, don’t feel like you are missing out on anything.
Get out of the house. If you are traveling for the holidays and aren’t in your own space, it’s easy to feel cooped up. You might feel the need to spend as much time as possible with people you don’t regularly see, but so much together-time can be stressful. You don’t need to spend every waking moment with the people you are spending the holidays with. Go for a walk or offer to run a last-minute errand if you feel like you need a break from the holiday chaos. Get some space from everyone when you feel like you need it. You will appreciate your time together more if you take those moments to yourself.
Acknowledge there might be difficult family interactions. There is just something about the holidays that make the perfect setting for negative family interactions. Everyone is stressed out and on edge from high expectations and too much time together. We all have those family members that will have a little too much to drink and say something that can’t be taken back. Remind yourself that there is a high chance for some sort of family squabble. Go into the holidays knowing that someone will butt heads with someone and do what you need to protect yourself.
Be realistic. Instagram and Pinterest show us images of the “perfect” Thanksgiving table or Christmas morning, but remember that nobody’s holidays go perfectly. Every family has issues come up around the holidays. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment by thinking this year will be perfect. The crazy uncle will probably say something rude and the parent or sibling who drives you crazy will still probably drive you crazy. Remind yourself that these things happen to every normal, messy family.
Support those who are having a substance-free holiday. It can be challenging to maintain sobriety throughout the holidays. In fact, many people openly deal with this time of year, and the challenging interactions that take place, by drinking alcohol or using substances. For many, the holidays bring up negative memories and feelings. If you or a family member are having a substance-free holiday, get the support you need or offer them the support they need. Be honest and communicate with people who can check in and give you the encouragement you need. Remember that so many people are trying to do the same and that you are not alone.
Find the positives where you can. There is no right way to do the holidays. Even if you hate this time of year, try to find something positive about it. And always remember to take care of yourself and prioritize your own well-being.