Surviving and Thriving During the Holidays

Tips from LIFEPlan’s Clinical Team

The holidays will soon be upon us. Whether you are looking forward to celebrating with friends and family or feel that familiar anxiety and maybe a little dread creeping in, there are things we can do to lessen stress over the next few weeks. The time we spend with others does not have to be perfect to be great and memorable.

Rethink perfection
The decorating, the gifts, the gatherings, the meals. Before you set the bar impossibly high for yourself and others, ask yourself what you really enjoyed about last year and other years. We can’t recreate the perfect holiday and all its traditions but choose a few to hold on to and be open to creating new ones. Many of us met virtually last year and some may this year as well. Even though it may look different than years past, there are always ways to celebrate and be thankful.

Acknowledge your feelings
We have been through a very difficult time-period and many families have lost members this year. It’s okay to feel sadness, grief and loneliness and take the time to express it. You may not feel like attending every event and that’s okay. You can commit to something that sounds fun while reminding yourself that you don’t have to stay for its entirety.

Reach out to others
When we are feeling lonely or isolated, reaching out to friends, family and other community supports can make a huge difference. There are many free online support groups, and virtual events that can offer support and a sense of community when we need to look outside our normal circle of support.

Sticking to a spending plan
Decide how much you are going to spend prior to starting your gift shopping. Know how much you can afford and stay within your guidelines. Look for local items to prevent worrying if things will arrive in time when the supply chain has slowed down significantly. Give experiences (think memberships to children’s attractions) to younger family members and consumables or donations in their name to older family members.

Don’t abandon healthy habits
Its easy to say “After New Year’s I’ll…” but the reality is you will feel better and have less stress and guilt if you try to stick with the things that are already working for you. Eat healthy meals, get lots of sleep, and continue with your regular physical activity. Avoid alcohol, tobacco and drug use and be sure to stay hydrated with lots of water. Adjust the time that you use social media to ensure you don’t miss ‘real’ moments.

Take a break
Making a little time for yourself can actually make you more productive. A quick walk outside, reading or listening to music for a bit or just spending the time alone can clear your mind and restore your calm. It doesn’t have to be a long time period to be helpful and reduce some stress.

Be kind
When you encounter a difficult person, you can often respond too quickly and regret your response. Taking a deep breath can give you a second to shift your perspective and respond with kindness. Knowing that they may be suffering and expressing it in ways that can be hurtful doesn’t make it right but can help you prepare your response.  Don’t expect people to magically change during the holidays. Recognizing that they will continue to be themselves can make interactions with family members much more pleasant.

The holiday season can bring a lot of joy and merriment, but it can also be overwhelming and stressful.  Anxiety can be high, but there are ways to reduce the stress that comes with trying to create the perfect holiday. Enjoy the good things and be present in the moments that make you happy. Take it one event at a time and celebrate the positives that happen along the way.

Happy Holidays!

For additional resources, click below. 

Stress Management from Mayo Clinic
MH National Holiday Support
WPR Dealing with Difficult People During the Holidays
The Psychology Group How to Cope with Grief During the Holidays