The holidays can be a great time of year but some people may experience frustration, isolation or sadness.
Holidays can create additional pressure for people and, for some; the approaching festive season can heighten stress and feel overwhelming, says Chris Mordue, program manager at South Pacific Private, a leading mental health and addiction treatment facility.
There’s an overwhelming pressure to be happy and joyous and an expectation the season will lift our spirits.
However, the reality is that for some the intended source of joy (families, togetherness, celebrating) can actually be the source of stress, sadness and disappointment, says Chris.
If this reality speaks to you, he says then it’s important to consider how you might prepare yourself for the holiday festivities in order to support yourself and create the environment that enables you to maintain your balance and wellbeing.
Here are some tips to get you started.
1. Set limits on your time and money
Establish a realistic budget and don’t feel that you have to spend big in order to demonstrate love. Prioritise holiday tasks and be realistic about what you can accomplish. An endless list of activities added to your holiday schedule can be a source of stress.
2. Pace yourself and get away from the noise
Get away from the desk, the ringing phones and the inevitable crowds. It’s often helpful to change your surroundings and make the time to enjoy a walk or some time ‘out’. Consider meditation or other physical means, such as yoga, to help you cope with stress and reduce its effects.
3. Limit technology
Social media and mobile devices are a major presence in many of our lives and they’re wonderful tools to help us communicate and connect; but if the holidays are a time of personal crisis, the noise of social media can create additional stress and it’s wise to be mindful of whether this is also triggering anxiety or overwhelm.
4. Don’t be afraid to say no
That means don’t attend parties when you don’t really have time or if you know that this environment will be a trigger for you. Don’t take on obligations that will crowd your time and don’t overextend yourself.
5. Spend time with others and considering volunteering
It can raise your spirits to make the holidays more pleasant for those less fortunate. By choosing to help others and giving your time and attention, you also help yourself.
6. Spend time with supportive and caring people who you trust
It is important when experiencing feelings of stress or anxiety to surround yourself with the people who are supportive of you and that you trust.
7. Put yourself first not last
Get at least 20 minutes of sunlight each day and remember to exercise. Pamper yourself a little. Avoid excessive drinking or eating. Alcohol may improve your mood at first, but it’s actually a depressant. Too much can make you feel worse. Watch your consumption of snacks and treats. Too much caffeine can cause difficulty sleeping, while high levels of salt can increase blood pressure and create anxiety. Too much sugar can cause fluctuations in your mood.
8. Create your own new traditions
Instead of focusing on past holidays that didn’t live up to expectations and re-living those, create happy memories for the future. Focusing your energy on the present can help to re-focus your attention from negative experiences. Focus on positive things and make a real effort to let go of what you think “should be.”
9. Find new ways to celebrate with family and friends
Remember there are really no “rules” for how to spend your holidays.
10. Get some rest
People actually lose sleep during the holidays. The consequences of not getting enough sleep might be cloudy thinking, irritability and a reduced ability to deal with everyday stress.
11. Take one day at a time
Don’t put pressure on yourself by thinking about all the time extending ahead of you with your family (or the environment or trigger that is causing anxiety). Instead, take one day at a time and breathe. Another useful technique can be to write a journal during this time to better understand what is happening for you at this time in your thoughts, your body, your feelings and your behaviour. This process may help to reduce anxiety and alleviate stress.