This holiday season may bring a lot of stress, but there are steps you can take to relieve that. Whether you are decorating a tree, lighting candles or giving and opening gifts, people celebrate the holiday season in their own way. However, it is unlikely that discussing your favorite coping skills by an open fire is something you've done with your loved ones during this time of year. But kudos to you if you have.
This time of the year has most of us extending ourselves to plan more, do more, and spend more. The pandemic has also brought on many other compounding stressors this season. As we attempt to cross off our holiday to-do list, the effect of everything we are enduring may leave us feeling stressed, exhausted, sad, and anxious.
Here are some practical tips to help you manage your holiday stress:
1. Face Your Feelings
You've got to start, and what better way to start than with what is available to you now? It's easy to tell ourselves that we don't have time to sit around sulking or to convince ourselves that all we need to do is suck it up, and we'll be fine. And if it's easy to say those words to yourself, you've likely had years of practice avoiding hard feelings; after all, it is an art our culture teaches us to excel in. But the reality is that connecting with your feelings is healthy and connects you with important psychological needs. The sooner you connect with your emotional response, the sooner you'll have access to information that points you toward what you need to feel balanced and at peace. So, find a quiet place, take a deep breath, turn your attention inward, exhale slowly, and allow those emotions to come to your conscious awareness.
2. Plan to Celebrate The Holidays in a Way That Works for You
As you sit with your stuff, you may have realized that some unresolved grief requires attention. Perhaps, you have feelings of resentment toward a family member or a yearning to reconnect with an estranged loved one. During the holiday season, it's easy to feel compelled to follow traditions. Many of us end up passively going along with things we don't feel comfortable doing during the holidays. But our best advocate is always ourselves. This holiday season may be the time to skip a particular get-together, set long-needed boundaries with certain relatives, or make amends with that specific person.
3. Be Realistic with Your Plans
It's rewarding to handle our emotional business, and you should applaud yourself for any plans you make to do so. It's also important to set your sights on the practical to manage your sanity. Set a realistic budget when deciding how much to spend on gifts, food, travel and other holiday-related expenses. When planning to travel, keep a flexible schedule and room for last-minute changes. It's a good idea to make a Plan B if Plan A falls through. Take into account any personal needs for alone time or rest when planning trips and get-togethers. Be mindful of any tendencies to overindulge in foods or beverages that go against your doctor's recommendations. Don't be shy to ask for support from trusted family or friends who can encourage you to say no to that second plate of stuffing or that third cup of eggnog.
4. Remind Yourself That You Are Not Alone
If you feel that you need support or your family and friends can't provide you with the space you seek, please remember that professional help is available. The Methodist EAP counselors are eager to meet you, listen to you, and collaborate on identifying solutions to your concerns. You deserve joy, and there is no need to suffer in silence.
About The Author
Carlos Torres, Ph.D.
Le Bonheur Children's Hospital
Carlos Torres, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who provides families of hospitalized patients at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital with mental health services. He is also the EAP counselor for associates at the hospital.