The leaves have changed colours, Halloween has come and gone. Now we are starting to see holiday items on the shelves and hear Christmas music on the radio. As we slowly approach that time of year again, it is possible that you are already feeling the holiday anxieties and stress start to creep over you.
The holiday season can bring up a lot of emotions for many. For some people, the holidays are their favourite time of the year, they are happy, excited, and look forward to spending time with family. For others, it can also be a stressful time of the year, especially for financial reasons. This time of year may also bring up bad memories, difficult times had with family. It is also important to remember those who have lost family members, or who are far apart from their family and are unable to spend the holidays with them. For these individuals the holiday season may bring up feelings of loneliness, sadness, and isolation.
It is not unusual to experience a number of different feelings that may be contributing to anxiety, depression and/or stress. So, how can you prepare yourself and cope through what may be a very stressful season?
1 Plan ahead
Try making a list of the people you want to buy gifts for, along with ideas that you might get for them. Plan your budget in advance and stick to it so that you can mitigate the possibility of overextending yourself. Getting your shopping done before the holiday rush can help to alleviate stress and anxiety surrounding last minute preparation.
2 Connect with others
Know that you are not the only one that is struggling with holiday stressors. Connecting with friends, family, or a therapist can be helpful to manage these challenges. Accepting support from people who care about us can help to alleviate stress. Additionally, being there to help those we care about can allow us to build meaningful connections and can help to make us feel better as well.
Family conflict can make it difficult to look forward to the holidays. Make sure to communicate your needs, and be realistic about what you can and cannot do. Setting boundaries with family and communicating clearly will help ensure that you are putting yourself first. It is okay to say “No”.
4 Take care of you
It is important to remember to check in with ourselves and acknowledge our own needs and feelings before, and throughout the holiday season. This might mean engaging in extra self-care activities, or treating yourself to a gift. Try planning some relaxing and enjoyable activities that are fun for yourself or the whole family to enjoy. The holidays can also be a reminder of losing a loved one. This might be a good opportunity to create new traditions in your family to keep your loved ones memory alive. Lastly, with all of the delicious food and get togethers we may end up drinking and eating more than we are used to. This may cause us to feel stress, guilt and shame. Try being gentle with yourself, it is okay to treat yourself! When planning your holidays, try fitting in opportunities to be active throughout.
5 Give back
For those that are feeling lonely and isolated during the holiday season, try engaging in a winter hobby, volunteering, or joining a group. This will allow for planned interactions, some of which can be very humbling and rewarding.
6 New year check-in
After the holidays have come and gone, reflect on the experiences you have had, and give yourself credit for all of the hard work you have put in. Acknowledging what you have done well as opposed to what may have went wrong can increase self-esteem and promote gratefulness and hope for years to come.
Written by Rochelle Brandt, PITC Student Therapist. Learn More about Rochelle.