The holidays are supposed to be the happiest time of the year. But for many, it’s a very stressful time filled with different emotions and triggers. Whether it’s because of a lack of money for gifts, feelings of loneliness or an overwhelming overload of commitments, just one of those issues can wipe out any holiday cheer.
Throughout the entire season we all hear messages of joy, love and peace. However, many people experience depression and anxiety around this time of year. And the pressure to be “happy” or “joyful” may make it harder to actually cope with negative feelings.
So what can we do to keep the joy plentiful and the stress minimal during the next few weeks? Here are some ways to not only survive the holidays and minimize stress, but to find ways to actually find JOY this season.
1. Acknowledge your feelings
If someone close to you has recently passed away or you can’t be with your loved ones, it’s important to acknowledge those feelings of sadness and grief. It’s perfectly okay to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can do that by journaling by yourself or talking with someone you trust and feel comfortable around.
Here’s the deal, though. You cannot force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season. Feelings are what they are. Let them happen. There’s not a “right” or a “wrong.” So give yourself the permission to feel whatever you need to feel. Sometimes, when we take the time to actually FEEL our FEELINGS, they end up taking less of the center stage of our day-to-day lives.
2. Create healthy boundaries with your relationships
Boundaries are with any person you have relationships with: your spouse, family, friends, extended family, co-workers. Past misunderstandings and conflicts can intensify during the holidays — especially if you’re together for several days at a time. If this is something you’re concerned about, first go back to #1 and acknowledge your feelings. Ideally a reconciliation is great, but it’s not always possible. Work on forgiveness even if it’s just in your own heart and cannot verbally be expressed at this time.
Identify what you CAN and CANNOT control. This is super important in setting boundaries. Because you are responsible for your own feelings, no one else.
Sometimes changing things up also helps. Maybe plan time for you and/or your guests to get out of the house for a few hours. Keep it simple. You can go for a walk in the neighborhood or nearby park, take a yoga class together, or send the in-laws out for a pizza and a movie. Think of some things to do in advance, so you’ll be prepared with ideas when tensions and boredom run high.
3. Accept your financial limits
With the added expenses of gifts, travel, food and entertainment, the holidays can strain your budget — and your peace of mind … often for months to come. This is especially true if you come from a large family or have a big network.
Plan ahead! Set a clear budget before you go shopping: know who you are buying for, and how much you are willing to spend. Write down a couple gift ideas for each person within your budget. Pinterest can help you come up with some great gift ideas. It will make for less stressful shopping experience and help you prevent the anxiety that comes with overspending and shoppers remorse.
Also, do some online comparison shopping. With shops like Amazon, Zappos, Ebates and even Target you can get some great online deals that aren’t available in stores. During the times you’re in a physical store, you can always do a search for that same item online and see if you can get it for a better price. Just watch out for added shipping fees.
Lastly, look for ways to reduce the gifting in general. A great way, especially with large families, is to have a secret Santa for all of the adults in the family and purchasing a gift with a preset amount. Or another option is volunteering or performing acts of kindness as a family, in lieu of gifts.
4. Managing Your Time
I just covered accepting your financial limits because many people feel they have a lack of money. But also, many feel like they have a lack of time. And unfortunately, many also feel they have a lack of both.
Although the expression “You have as many hours a day as Beyonce,” is meant to be motivating … it’s mostly deflating. And when I first heard this, I was like, “YEAH! I can do this, I can do anything, I can conquer the world….”
Well…. you see, Beyonce has a staff, and if you’re like most of us, that’s not the reality. So what can we do to make the most of the 24 hours we are allotted each day during the holiday season?
It’s really about the joyful, positive impact you are creating. Not this illusive “holiday perfection,” that doesn’t exist. So, plan ahead but keep it simple. Make a to-do list: get an idea what you need to do each week (and then each day) to stay on track. Use online apps to help you stay on task like AwesomeNote and Evernote. Plan trips to stores during non-peak hours.
Most importantly, do NOT be afraid to ask for help.
5. Managing your party schedule
During this season, you’re either hosting parties or going to them. Probably even both.
Although many people are excited to have a full social schedule, it can get a bit overwhelming and draining when parties and commitments overlap. Especially when numerous events call for additional needs like brining a dish or helping to coordinate the event. Sometimes it’s more than we can manage.
Don’t feel you need to say “yes” as soon as each invitation comes in. Instead, respond with, “let me check my calendar and get back to you.” That will give you some time – whether it’s a few hours, days or a weekend – to evaluate the invitations you have received and review your calendar. Consider your family, work, church, and self-care commitments FIRST and then choose the parties that fit within your schedule.
Remember, it’s perfectly fine to politely decline without too many details; most people are understanding as they are equally stressed. This has been something in particular I’ve been working on. Because I feel like I always to need to explain myself, and truthfully I don’t. It either works with my schedule or it doesn’t.
6. Don’t abandon healthy habits
Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt! Besides, why throw away all that hard work you’ve put in the previous months. Avoid kicking yourself in the butt come the New Year.
So to stay on track as much as possible, before going to party have a healthy snack so you don’t get crazy on sweets, cheese or drinks. Or if you’re super on it – pack a lunchbox and keep it in your trunk. The JAXX lunchbox is my favorite.
Also, continue to get plenty of sleep and physical activity. Watch the drinking also. Studies show that not only does it slow down the immune system and your metabolism, but over-consumption of alcohol can also lead to depression.
7. Modify your expectations
Sometimes, our expectations for the holiday season do not match our reality. Between Hollywood, what we see on the high reels of social media, and our own memories from childhood, we are left with images of sweet family get-togethers, perfect gift exchanges and romantic moments by the fireplace.
So take a time out and evaluate your expectations for the holidays. Are they realistic? If they’re not – or a bit exaggerated – perhaps some readjustments are necessary in order to meet your own reality. The holidays don’t necessarily need to be “perfect” or “just like they were last year.”
As families evolve, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, while also being open to creating fun new ones.
8. Staying Centered & Calm
More than anything else, it’s important during the holiday season to create a sense of internal peace. It’s often that we lose ourselves in the craze of the season and end up feeling run down and unhappy. Finding personal balance can be one of the easiest ways to not only survive the holiday season, but to enjoy it!
A few ways to get centered include:
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