by Jennifer Gibson, Psy. D.
Although the holidays are a time for celebration and connection with the ones we love, they can also be a time of increased stress. It is important to be mindful of our stress levels and the potential for adding to existing stress, so that we can makes sure to truly enjoy connecting with our loved ones and celebrate the holidays. Our loved ones will enjoy us more too, if we are enjoying ourselves. Here are a few suggestions for managing stress during the holidays.
1. Keep to your routines as much as possible. As much as you can maintain your sleep, regular diet, and exercise, the better you will feel during and after the holidays. Don’t forget about any other stress-reducing strategies you use regularly, as they can come in handy.
2. It’s okay to say “no.” You may be invited to several gatherings between your children’s connections and your own. Be mindful of the commitments you have made and the ones you are planning to make, and to say “no” to anything unneccesary. You may feel bad saying “no,” but you will feel worse if you over-commit, depriving yourself of energy or enthusiasm for more cherished activities.
3. Stay within your budget. With the holidays can come increased expenses. Be mindful of your budget and prioritize the things you want to purchase, and let go of the things you are tempted to spend money on that are not necessarily important. You will feel much better after the holidays if you have left yourself in a good place financially when they are over.
4. Strained relationships. The holidays are known for bringing people together, which can be difficult when you are experiencing strained relationships with those you might see. Take some time to yourself prior to these encounters, rehearse how you might handle these situations, and ground yourself in who you are. Remember that you are never obligated to stay anywhere that you do not feel comfortable.
5. Loss. As much as we are excited to see the loved ones in our lives during the holidays, we can also be aware of the loved ones that are no longer with us. If this happens to you, recognize when you are having feelings, accept them and allow yourself to experience them, and take care of yourself. Go for a walk, call a close friend, or take a break from what you are doing and relax for a moment. If you are aware of situations or circumstances that might elicit these feelings, prepare for them and have compassion for yourself. There is a strong focus on family during the holidays, and although this may be difficult, it is an opportunity to work on feelings that may have been put aside for one reason or another.
Jennifer Gibson, PsyD, Licensed Clinical Psychologist