Take control of the holidays

The holiday season often brings unwelcome guests - stress and depression. And it’s no wonder, the holidays present a dizzying array of demands - shopping, cleaning, family dynamics and expectations, to name just a few. Here are some steps you can take to prevent the holiday season to overwhelm you and find peace and joy.

  1. Acknowledge your feelings. If you have lost someone or something, recognize that it’s normal to feel down. Give yourself permission to take time to cry and express how you feel. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.

  2. Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirit and broaden your circle of friends.

  3. Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be like the TV commercial and the movies. In the same way people change and grow, traditions and rituals do too! Think of the people you’d like to be close to and choose to reach out to them. Be open to creating new contacts as well.

  4. Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to your expectations. This may be an opportunity to practice forgiveness and let go of the things that are toxic for you. Practice boundaries and set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. Be understanding of others feeling overwhelmed or defensive. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.

  5. Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Think of those gifts that are priceless that you can give without needing to spend. Here are some ideas:
    • Donate to a charity in someone’s name.
    • Give homemade gifts.
    • Start a family gift exchange.
  6. Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, cooking, connecting with friends and other activities. Plan your activities and then make your shopping list. That’ll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten items. And, make sure to ask for help as you prepare.

  7. Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.

  8. Practice self-care. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Try these suggestions:
    • Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets cheese or drinks.
    • Get plenty of sleep.
    • Incorporate regular physical activity into each day.
  9. Take a breather. Remember to give yourself a break. Invest just 15 minutes a day to take care of what is important for you. This will refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner peace. Some ideas may include:
    • Taking a walk outdoors.
    • Listening to uplifting music.
    • Getting a massage.
    • Reading something that inspires you.
  10. 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. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.
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