Getting it all done...an idea that seems to grow in size around the holidays. This idea becomes a feeling that we often take on as a reflection of who we are as a person and our ability to be a fully functional human being. If we cannot attend all the gatherings or shower our loved ones with gifts or present an image of togetherness than it must be true...we must be less than.
These ideas that turn into feelings don’t just pop up during the holiday season and in fact show up in various ways throughout our days but seem to be tenfold during the holiday rush and eventually comes crashing down into an idea of “what’s next” after the new year...where do I direct my energy now and do I have the energy to direct myself in the direction that will be most helpful to me.
What feelings are prevalent during the holiday seasons outside of (expected) joy, happiness and thankfulness? Often feelings of anxiety, stress and depression are exacerbated when we are flooded with ideas of being connected, present and attuned to those we hold dear.
Anxiety often surrounding the drive to do it all and to do it all perfectly.
Stress reflecting on there never seems to be enough time.
Depression pointing towards connections that may not be there or have dwindled.
While these identified feelings are not all that one can experience during the holidays it is important to recognize that our feelings as a whole can become exacerbated and to prepare as much as possible.
Per the Mayo Clinic (mayoclinic.org)
Tips to prevent holiday stress and depression
When stress is at its peak, it's hard to stop and regroup. Try to prevent stress and depression in the first place, especially if the holidays have taken an emotional toll on you in the past.
1. 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.
2. Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
3. Be realistic. The holidays don't have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can't come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos.
4. Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don't live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they're feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
5. Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don't try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts.
Try these alternatives:
o Donate to a charity in someone's name.
o Give homemade gifts.
o Start a family gift exchange.
6. Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That'll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.
7. Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can't participate in every project or activity. If it's not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
8. 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:
o Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don't go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks.
o Get plenty of sleep.
o Incorporate regular physical activity into each day.
9. Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.
Some options may include:
o Taking a walk at night and stargazing.
o Listening to soothing music.
o Getting a massage.
o Reading a book.
10. Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.
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.