Handling the Holidays

November and December are those much anticipated months for many of us. They mean family time, days off from work, excitement, joy, and too much really good food. However, these months can also mean that feelings of loneliness are magnified, anxiety is at its max, and that ever-nagging feeling of depression settles in. The therapists at Water’s Edge Counseling realize that the holidays can be hard to handle for many people. Here are some of their expert tips for managing all of the emotions and stress brought on by the holidays:

  1. Keep your routine as normal as possible. Nothing about the holidays is normal. With so many changes to your everyday routine going on, keeping your routine as normal as you possibly can will help create some normalcy in your life during this season. Try to regulate both your sleep schedule and diet. Filling your body with extra junk and your schedule with too many activities will only make you feel physically and mentally bad and overwhelmed.
  2. Stay connected to your support system. Most of us have that one person who “gets us”; that person you can come to when you need to vent, cry on their shoulder, and laugh with. Stay in contact with that person or persons throughout the holiday season. Reach out to them for support when you are feeling lonely or overwhelmed. Surrounding ourselves with people who truly care is one of the best ways to get through difficult and stressful times.
  3. Lower your expectations and be realistic. We all long for those Hallmark movie holidays where everyone gets along, relationships are restored, and we all drink hot cider and reminisce around the Christmas tree while being warmed by the fire. For most of us, our holiday will be a far cry from this idealistic scene. Go into the holidays with a realistic attitude. People argue, children have meltdowns, teenagers withdraw, that annoying uncle never changes, and hot cider spills on new furniture. The holidays do not change reality. Going into the holidays with high expectations will only set you up to be disappointed when these expectations are not met.
  4. Say “No.” The holidays bring about many extra commitments and engagements. Remember to give yourself and your family space. Do not fill every second with an activity or holiday party. Give yourself time to relax and enjoy family and friends. Allow time and space to process your emotions and have some down time. By giving yourself permission to say “No”, you will greatly help your anxiety level during the holidays.
  5. Serve others. The holidays are a great time to serve others. There are many opportunities to volunteer in the community during the holiday season. Take your elderly neighbor a meal, bake cookies for the oncology patients at your local hospital, serve in a soup kitchen, or deliver cards to a local nursing home. Oftentimes when we take the focus off of ourselves and look around us, we realize that things may not be as bad as they seem. Serving others helps us to reset our perspective on life.
  6. Focus on the present. The holidays bring up many emotions relating to our past. Perhaps having to spend a weekend or even just a day with a difficult sibling or parent brings up many tough emotions about past experiences. These emotions are real and can be hard to deal with. Realizing, however, that you cannot change the past and only walk forward in the present, may bring the relief you need to make it through the holiday. Letting go of the things that you cannot change and focusing on your present needs will benefit your mental health tremendously.
  7. Be thankful. Each day during the holiday season, find at least one thing to be thankful for. Having a mindset of gratitude and thinking on the positive helps our emotions to follow. When we think positively, we are more likely to act and react in a positive way.

Before the holiday season gets into full swing, take some time to think about these tips and set yourself up for a low-stress November and December. If the holiday season becomes too much, our counselors are here and would love to help you. Please reach out to us and give us a call at 912-319-5552.