The phrases “Happy Holidays,” “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Hanukkah,” etc. can often be heard at this time of the year. Most people who share these messages of cheer do so with positivity and excitement about the holiday season. Likewise, some deliver this message out of obligation because that is “what you do” at this time of year. For those who get excited and truly look forward to the month of December with all the festivity that comes along with it, kudos to you! Continue to do so!
However, it is important to note that holidays can be difficult for some people. Particularly the December holiday season that is often focused on time spent with loved ones. If you are alone, not at the point in life where you believe you should be, experienced a recent breakup, have negative or poor family relationships, recently gone through a divorce and having to experience not having your children for the holiday, or if the holiday season is an anniversary of something distressing or traumatic, these are some (but certainly not all) of the reasons you may not feel the excitement or joy at this time of year. For those who actually aren’t feeling so merry or happy at this time of year, here are some strategies for making the holiday season better, easier, and hopefully happier and merrier:
- Plan as much as possible ahead of time. The more prepared you are, the less stressed you will feel. Don’t wait until the last minute to decorate, make holiday plans, buy gifts, plan menus, or buy food. The more you do ahead of time, the more you will be able to relax and just enjoy.
- If family is stressing you out, set boundaries. Don’t let family members dictate your holiday plans, crash at your house, or overstay their welcome. This your holiday, too. You get to decide how you want to spend it and with whom. If you are hosting, and especially for out of town guests, it is even more important to set limits. Hosting itself can be very stressful given the many responsibilities that come along with it (preparing your home for guests, cooking, cleaning, decorating, etc.). Don’t be afraid to ask family for help cleaning the dishes, putting food away, or even just generally cleaning up.
- Focus on the positive. If you feel forced to participate in holiday gatherings, you can still choose to focus on the positive. The very obvious thing here is that you clearly have family, friends, or other social supports that you want around and who want to spend this time of year with you. You are not alone, and that is something to be positive about. Likewise, if you are spending time away from loved ones this year, focus on that you have such great people in your life who you miss this holiday season.
- Get rest. Make sure you get enough hours of sleep and don’t overdo it. This can be easier said than done with all the energy that goes into the holiday season. The more rested you are, the better you will feel emotionally and physically, and the more you will be able to take on all the action.
- Take breaks. With all of the preparations, make sure you have time to sit and chat with others, or even just get away for a few minutes. This will help you feel more balanced, less overwhelmed, and energized.
- Practice self-care. Just because it is the holidays doesn’t mean you have an excuse to not eat healthy, exercise, relax, and take care of yourself. In fact, the holidays are an extra reason to make sure you are attending to your needs and health.
- Don’t overeat or drink too much. Either of these can lead to feeling sluggish, and drinking can lead to feeling depressed (yes, it is a depressant…). Limit your food intake by using portion control strategies and refraining from seconds and thirds. Keep your eating and drinking in moderation, and you will feel better.
- Acknowledge thoughts and emotions. This allows you to work with them, and challenge them, if needed.
- Plan some downtime, if needed. This can be especially important immediately following the holiday and/or gathering. You may need this time to relax and decompress from all the excitement and happenings.
- Speak with a professional. This is never a last resort, just last on this list. If you are dreading the approaching holidays, or just barely “survived” the holiday season, reaching out to a professional can be greatly beneficial. Increased insight, coping skills, and strategies aimed at improving your thoughts and emotions are some of the benefits of working with a trained mental health professional. It is not unusual for people to feel depressed or anxious at this time of year; it is fairly common. Working with someone can help to feel more prepared or to get past the holiday emotional hangover.
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At Tampa Therapy, we are committed to providing a relaxing, healing, and non-judgmental environment to support you on your journey. If you want things to be different, you have to change them. Give us a call or email us today to start the process of making important changes in your life.