Despite expectations to the contrary, the holidays often bring on bouts of stress and depression in addition to seasonal cheer. The Mayo Clinic has identified three main trigger points of holiday stress and depression including relationships, finances, and physical demands. But realistic planning can help people cope with the circumstances and actually enjoy themselves more. To that end, the Mayo Clinic staff has developed the following list of 12 Tips for Coping with holiday pressures:
1. Acknowledge your feelings. If a loved one has recently died or you aren’t able to be with your loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness or grief. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
2. Seek support. If you feel isolated or down, seek out family members and friends, or community, religious or social services. They can offer support and companionship.
3. Be realistic. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Hold on to those you can and want to. But accept that you may have to let go of others.
4. Set differences aside. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all your expectations. Practice forgiveness.
5. Stick to a budget. Be sure to stick to your budget. If you don’t, you could feel anxious and tense for months afterward as you struggle to pay the bills.
6. Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities.
7. Learn to say no. Believe it or not, people will understand if you can’t do certain projects or activities. If you say yes only to what you really want to do, you’ll avoid feeling resentful, bitter and overwhelmed.
8. Don’t abandon healthy habits. Some indulgence is OK, but overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.
9. Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do.
10. Rethink resolutions. Resolutions can set you up for failure if they’re unrealistic. Don’t resolve to change your whole life to make up for past excess. Instead, try to return to basic, healthy lifestyle routines.
11. Forget about perfection. Holiday TV specials are filled with happy endings. But in real life, people don’t usually resolve problems within an hour or two. Accept imperfections in yourself and in others.
12. Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores.
Visit The Mayo Clinic for more information about stress and the holidays. Our counselors are always available for consultation and referral.