While ‘tis the season to be merry”, for many of us, it’s also a season for stress, anxiety and angst, which leads us to behave in ways we’re sure to regret later. During this time of year, people often resort to bad habits—they may cave into sugar cravings, go for the booze and overdose on caffeine.
This may be a good time to try to reframe your thinking about the holidays. Instead of dreading the likely stress ahead, you can view the holidays as an opportunity to enhance your psychological well-being. There are a number of helpful steps you can take to lessen holiday stress and feel more optimistic about the season.
Take calm-down breaks – Soon after you awake, close your eyes, take several deep breaths and meditate or just relax. Imagine yourself in a beautiful place, think of a happy memory or visualize yourself succeeding at a cherished goal. “Quieting down your mind before you begin your day can help it get off to a great start and things will flow for you.”
Take care of yourself – It is important that we pay attention to our own needs and feelings during the holiday season. We can find fun, enjoyable and relaxing activities for ourselves and our families. By keeping our minds and bodies healthy, we are primed to deal with stressful situations when they arise. Consider cutting back television viewing for kids and get the family out together for fresh air and a winter walk. Physical activity can help us feel better and sleep well, while reducing sedentary time and possible exposure to stress-inducing advertisements.
Keep things in perspective – On the whole, the holiday season is short. It helps to maintain a broader context and a longer-term perspective. We can ask ourselves, what’s the worst thing that could happen this holiday? Our greatest fears may not happen and, if they do, we can tap our strengths and the help of others to manage them. There will be time after the holiday season to follow up or do more of things we’ve overlooked or did not have the time to do during the holidays.
Strengthen social connections – We know that strong, supportive relationships help us manage all kinds of challenges. So, we can view the holidays as a time to reconnect with the positive people in our lives. Accepting help and support from those who care about us can help alleviate stress. Also, volunteering at a local charity on our own or with family can be another way to make connections; helping others often makes us feel better, too.
Keep It Simple
The holiday season is particularly stressful when you have too much on your plate. This might be the case if you’re welcoming out-of-town guests and hosting family festivities. You don’t necessarily have to cancel your plans, but make sure you’re not setting unrealistic expectations for yourself. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect, and you don’t have to do everything yourself. Get your family involved and delegate. For example, instead of taking on the responsibility of preparing an entire meal alone, ask everyone to bring a dish. Or, if you feel that hosting an event at your home is too much, don’t feel obligated to entertain relatives and friends. Know your limitations and learn how to say “no.”