Handling Holiday Stress
It’s the holidays, which usually means a busier schedule due to traveling, shopping and get-togethers. It can also be a time of stress and anxiety because of the higher demands the holiday season brings. Don’t let these added obligations and responsibilities create holiday stress. By following a few simple tips, you’ll stay mentally balanced and well prepared to handle this festive time of year.
Keep a Schedule
Time management is important. You can plan your days and evenings to avoid overcommitting yourself. First, schedule all your regular activities that are important to staying well, such as exercise or counseling sessions. Then, schedule your extra holiday activities. Make sure your schedule isn’t overloaded on any particular day. If you get an invitation and your calendar is full, feel free to refuse.
Watch Your Budget
Be wary of overspending on holiday gifts. It’s tempting to spend more than you can afford on gifts and other holiday responsibilities. If you go over budget, it could cause anxiety over how you’re going to pay for all of it when the credit card bills arrive. Overspending could also leave a big hole in your finances, leaving less for your normal expenses. Small or inexpensive gifts or handmade items that come from the heart can show people how much you care—without breaking the bank.
Seeing the Family
Visiting family you don’t normally see, except for around the holidays, can be stressful. Despite the perfect family we’d all like to be part of, most families are anything but perfect. Family relationships are complicated. (1)
If you have family members who aren’t polite and supportive, avoid them as much as possible or have prepared answers if the conversation gets rough. A simple, “I’d rather not discuss that now.” can usually shut down rude or prying loved ones. If the situation goes further downhill, have an exit plan to leave before you become too upset.
An exit plan could mean staying at a hotel rather than with family. You can escape back to your hotel if loved ones become too stressful. If you live close by, you can simply go home. When you feel uncomfortable, let your folks know you’re tired and exit. It’s not a lie—you’re tired of the situation—but keep it non-confrontational with a simple and truthful, “I’m tired.”
Not Seeing the Family
If you’re not seeing loved ones or are missing family who have passed on, it can be a time of loneliness and sadness. Remedy this by taking out the calendar and scheduling fun activities with friends or arranging for extra sessions with your counselor. You can also plan classes like arts and crafts or ones that teach you new skills. Anything that keeps your mind occuppied will help stave off loneliness. (2)
Society tends to further the notion of how “things should be” around the holidays. Don’t idealize what the holiday season should be. Your life and family are different from others, so there is really no one ideal that fits everyone. Most people have less than perfect holiday gatherings, so don’t worry if you have negative feelings. If you feel overwhelmed, talk to your counselor.