Oct 25, 2013 08:28PM
By Kristine Weires, LCSW-PIP
No two words can create such a variety of emotions as “the holidays”. For many, those two words mean family, fun, festivities and celebration. For others, it conjures up feelings of stress, depression and anxiety. All of us get a little stressed this time of year when there is so much to do and seemingly so little time to do it in – decorate, shop, bake, etc. The list seems endless at times. This can be overwhelming when already dealing with life’s “normal” daily demands. Creating strategies to offset the stress can go a long ways to enjoying a more peaceful holiday season. Here are just a few suggestions:
- Just say “NO!” to extra responsibilities such as hosting work parties, attending holiday parties purely out of obligation, Secret Santa, and directing the Church Christmas Pageant. They may sound like fun and enjoyable in November but can wear you down in December.
- Plan, plan, plan. Look at December and make a calendar of events including self-directed deadlines such as “complete Christmas shopping by December 20th” or “Christmas cards done and sent by December 15th.” Don’t leave everything to the week before Christmas or the joy of the season gets lost in all the hustle and bustle. Spread it out. Hint: Don’t be like a certain ‘Hood contributor and underestimate the time it takes to wrap the gifts!
- Add things that are enjoyable and give you strength and warmth such as coffee with a good friend or holiday date night with your special someone. Think upon these events as part of the joy of the season and a time to take a breath and be thankful for the people in your life.
- If this holiday season is going to be particularly difficult due to something that occurred since last Christmas (such as a death, divorce or other crises), recognize the need to take some time to grieve the loss even though you may have felt “over it.” The holidays are a common trigger for emotions such as sadness or fear. What will the next year hold for me since my mom’s death? Will my marriage survive another year? I really miss my dad reading the Christmas story on Christmas Eve. Don’t ignore these thoughts/feelings or they can build and come out as anger later.
- One of the most difficult situations over the holidays can be not spending them with loved ones due to circumstances outside of our control such as custody arrangements, distance between homes, or conflicting schedules. In the case of custody arrangements, it’s important to keep the holidays positive for children even if we aren't exactly feeling festive because they will be with the other parent. Remember, in all earlier mentioned situations, Thanksgiving and Christmas can be any day. Just because the kids or other loved ones aren't physically in the home on Thanksgiving or December 25th doesn't mean you can’t have Thanksgiving or Christmas another day complete with a special meal or presents under the tree. The last thing we want is for our children to grow up dreading the holidays because they know whatever parent they aren't with is miserable because they aren't there. It also teaches children conflict resolution and stress management by role modeling when we can wish them a happy time outside of our presence. Remember, the children aren't responsible for the situation so don’t make them responsible for the emotional consequences.
- Schedule down time once the holidays are over. Don’t return to work immediately if you don’t have to. Take an extra few days to process all the activity of the past six weeks. If it’s back to work on December 26th, look at early January and take a few days then. Time off right at the holidays can often feel like one of those times when you need a few days off to recover from your few days off. It’s ok to take time to refresh and prepare for the return to the “normal” routine.
- Often times, it’s after the holidays that the blues can emerge. This is due to the sudden decline in scheduled activities and excitement not to mention the frigid temperatures and seemingly dead landscape that accompany January. These few months before spring breaks can be rough with limited sunlight and rare opportunities to be outdoors. Consider this time of year for a getaway.
- If moderate or severe depression symptoms continue, such as increased fatigue, crying, feelings of hopelessness and/or helplessness, consider seeking professional intervention. Everyone sometimes needs a little help to be the best they can be. Don’t see it as a weakness but as strength to do whatever necessary to feel better and live happier.
Enjoying the holiday season isn't as easy as we think. Don’t let it fly by without taking notice of the beauty of the season around you!