By Anne Parker, Wellness Counselor
The holiday season is known to be the most wonderful time of the year. You get to enjoy delicious food and create lasting memories with friends and loved ones you may have not seen in a while. But, the holidays may also bring on stress and depression from all of the party planning, shopping, cooking, and entertaining. With some practical tips, you can minimize the stress that the holiday season brings and enjoy the time with your friends and loved ones.
1. Be Careful of Expectations
Expectations about how things “should be” are dangerous, particularly at holiday time when activities and events feel even more significant. Remember to focus on the things that you can actually impact and let go of the expectations about things you can’t control.
In the busyness of holiday schedules, it is tempting to move your usual exercise routine to last place on the “to do” list. However, this is the time when it is most important to make sure you are exercising regularly. Exercise will keep your energy level up, release tension, and support a positive mood. Exercise is the number one way to keep melancholy at bay!
3. Don’t Fight the Sadness
Holidays are often a time when sadness and grief are deeply felt. This is normal and you need to be gentle with yourself about this. Fighting the feelings or judging yourself for having these feelings just gives them more strength. Acknowledge what you feel and let those sad feelings co-exist with the happy ones. Writing is a great way to acknowledge what you are feeling and move the energy in a positive way.
4. Start New Traditions or Transform Old Ones That Are No Longer Meaningful
Often we cling to old traditions as a way of attempting to stay connected to “the way it was” or “the way it should be”. However, if old traditions are no longer meaningful or just don’t fit current circumstances they can become a source of stress and conflict. Transform those old traditions to honor what is meaningful while creating something that fits for what is important for you now.
5. Limit Your Sugar Intake
Sugar is often abundant during the holidays and tempts us to splurge. However, sugar intake creates a false high that is followed by an energy and mood crash. Limiting your sugar intake will help you keep your mood and your energy more even instead of experiencing intense highs and lows.
6. Limit Your Alcohol Intake
Even though alcohol can have the effect of loosening us up, it is actually a depressant. Alcohol consumption has a rebound effect on mood that is similar to sugar and can increase your melancholy and feelings of negativity.
7. Get Enough Sleep
Like exercise and limiting sugar and alcohol, getting enough sleep is a basic self-care habit that is absolutely critical to ward off feelings of depression. It is also an easy thing to cut back on when holiday busyness is in full gear. Make sure you create time and space for nourishing sleep.
8. Don’t Give Weight to Trivialities
In other words, “don’t sweat the small stuff”! And in truth, most of it is “small stuff”! Focus your attention and energy on what is most meaningful and congruent with the holiday experience you want to create for yourself and others. Putting pressure on yourself to have all the details and minutiae perfect is a quick way to plunge yourself into frustration, anxiety, and a negative mood.
9. Stay Connected
Be careful not to isolate yourself or withdraw from life – people, activities, animals, nature, God, spirit. Holidays can create a feeling of overwhelm that lead you to disconnect from what supports you the most. That disconnection and withdrawal creates the opportunity for sadness, regret, and disappointment to take over. Staying connected with vibrant aspects of life provides the foundation to keep feelings of depression from defining your experience.
10. Be Present and Enjoy
Allow yourself to be fully present and engaged with holiday happenings. Focus on what is and how to fully enjoy what you have instead of focusing on “what isn’t” or “what you wish could/be”. If you are truly present, you give yourself the opportunity to discover, play, connect, and enjoy!