We all hope the holidays will be a time of joy and celebration. Unfortunately, the holiday season often brings uninvited guests – stress and depression. And it’s easy to understand why. We often feel frazzled by all the demands of shopping, parties, cleaning, baking, entertaining, etc.…
Other sources of holiday sadness include:
- Unrealistic expectations
- Financial stress
- Unable to be with family and friends
- Loss of loved ones
While we can’t eliminate all the stress we’re under during the holidays, we can at least try to minimize it.
Practical Tips to Avoid Holiday Stress and Depression:
1. Acknowledge your feelings. If you’ve recently lost a loved one or you can’t be with family and friends, it’s okay to feel grief and sadness. Take time to cry and express your feelings. You can’t make yourself be happy just because it’s the holiday season. It’s also not healthy to stay stuck in your grief. Acknowledge your sadness but allow yourself to set it aside and enjoy some parts of the holidays.
2. Be realistic. Don’t try to make everything perfect and exactly like the vision you may have in your mind. Families grow and change, and traditions often have to change as well. Find ways to work around any issues that come up. If adult children can’t make it to your house this year, find other ways to include them in your celebration like a video call.
3. Reach out. Seek out friends or community, religious or other social events if you feel lonely. If the people who love you get wrapped up in their to-do list and the busyness of the season, don’t wait for them to reach out to you…call them and offer to help bake or decorate. This is also a great time to volunteer somewhere. You’ll not only make new friends but helping others will lift your spirits.
4. Set aside differences. Make every effort to accept family and friends for who they are. Choose to be kind and friendly even if you don’t agree with someone’s opinion or life choices. If something doesn’t go as planned and someone gets upset, try to be understanding. There’s a good chance they’re also feeling stressed or depressed by the holidays.
5. Plan ahead. With so much going on, it’s important to have a plan for the holidays. You can avoid getting overwhelmed by setting aside specific days for shopping, baking, activities, and visiting loved ones. Plan your menus for the week before you make your shopping list. This will help prevent last-minute trips to the store for missing ingredients. Include your guests in party preparations and cleanup…most people are happy to help.
6. Set a budget. Money issues often cause unnecessary stress during the holidays. It’s easy to spend more than you planned and then worry about how you’re going to pay for it. So, before you go shopping for gifts and food, decide how much money you can afford to spend…then stick to your budget. Think of creative ways to scale back, like homemade gifts or a family gift exchange.
7. Say no. When you say yes even though you should say no, you may begin to feel overwhelmed and resentful. It’s okay to say no to activities and events during the holidays, so don’t overload your calendar at the expense of your sanity.
8. Make time for yourself. Find time each day to do something that clears your mind, reduces stress, and restores your inner calm. Time alone, without distractions, will refresh your spirit so you can handle everything you need to do.
Some ideas to consider:
- Listen to soothing music
- Read a book
- Get a massage
- Take a walk at night and enjoy the stars
9. Keep healthy habits. While all the rich and sugary foods are tempting, don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. It’s okay to indulge occasionally, but overindulgence will only add to your stress. Eat a healthy snack before going to holiday parties so you don’t have too many drinks and high-calorie foods. Maintain your exercise routine and get physical activity each day.
10. Seek professional help if you need it. If, despite your best efforts, you find yourself unable to face your daily chores and you’re feeling overwhelmed by sadness, anxiety, or hopelessness, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. Ask for help…there’s no reason to suffer silently.
This holiday season take steps to prevent stress and depression. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers so you can head them off before they lead to a meltdown. Positive thinking and planning ahead will help you find joy and peace during the holidays.