Every year, I see how stressed out people get around the holidays. Holiday parties, gift buying and giving, family obligations -- it all stresses people out. I think it's mostly stressful because of the obligatory nature of the season. Many of us are doing all the things we're doing because we feel we have to. Not because we want to. And no one likes to do things out of obligation. Well, there are some people who find comfort in it, but most of the people I've met don't. It's stressful and builds resentment. So, I'm offering up some suggestions for how to get through the holidays with less stress and more joy or at least less tension for yourself.
1. If you have a vacation day or sick day available to you. Take one day off. Don't tell anyone. Just take a mental health/respite day off for yourself. Go to a museum. Go to an arcade. Go play pool. Go rock climbing. Go to your favorite breakfast spot. Don't do anything you don't WANT to do that day. It's a "just for you" day. Don't feel guilty. You'll still get all your holiday chores done, just not on this one day.
2. Don't give up your routine. Between parties and shopping and wrapping and cooking and work, it's easy to think, "Oh, well, I'll exercise in 2016." or "I'll meditate later." But these types of routine health-maintenance activities are just what we need to keep balanced during this destabilizing time. If you have to, shorten the amount of time you're doing these activities, but don't give them up entirely --- they're so useful for keeping balance.
3. Lower the stakes. It's the holidays. It's supposed to be a fun time. If Christmas dinner doesn't come out perfectly, if you don't find the perfect gift for your sister-in-law, if you don't get along with your mom...there are worse things that could happen. Think of it this way...you all have your health, you're all together, so everyone's not happy -- you can be happy just for the little things. Keep your eye on the big picture.
4. Delegate/Share. Too many people try to do too much on their own for the holidays. In couples, there's usually one person who does the gift shopping and wrapping AND the cooking, etc... Well, I say: delegate! Get other people to pitch in. Or make it a shared activity that you can enjoy with your mate. Sure, you're not going to agree with everything they pick out, but they won't agree with everything you pick out and you can laugh about it or talk about it or get really deep and analyze why you think they think that's a good gift for nephew Mark and why they think you think it isn't... you might learn something about yourself! What a gift!
5. ADLs. Make sure that you keep up with your activities of daily living. Make sure you keep up with your healthy eating schedule and your sleep hygiene and everything else you need to do to keep things in order in your life. Don't give them up just because it's the holidays.
6. Phone a friend. If it all gets to stressful for you, get in touch with a friend and have a good, solid, honest talk. It's important to get feelings and confusions off your mind and into the air and to talk them out. Or, if you go to therapy, make sure you talk about these stresses with your therapist. Don't let them fester or go building up. That's a sure-fire way to end up blowing up at the least opportune time.
7. Reach out for help. If the holidays are a time of depression for you. Make sure to reach out. If you're in therapy, you may want to up your sessions to twice per week during this month. If you are feeling like you're going to hurt yourself, make sure to get help. Go to the emergency room, call a friend, call the national suicide hotline: 1 (800) 273-8255. The holidays are super difficult for those who are alone, too, and you can make it through. Perhaps with some help. Please don't attempt to hurt yourself. Please reach out for help.
Well, these are my suggestions. I hope that some of them make some sense to you and may help you through this holiday season. It's a beast of a time. You're not alone.