With the holiday season around the corner, most of us have been looking forward to this needed break. However, as much as we look forward to it, the holiday season can also result in feelings of being overwhelmed, sad and lonely. Additionally, one may have to face challenging family dynamics. Hopefully this guide to keeping calm, beating the holiday blues, and connecting with your family, will help you to maximize feelings of peace and joy this holiday season.
Tips to keep calm
Plan as much as possible in advance. The more you schedule things the less overwhelmed you will feel having to make many last-minute decisions.
Refrain from trying to go to too many places in too short a time.
Stop feeling that you need to host the perfect party and take a conscious effort to downsize on holiday celebrations instead. Also delegate responsibility to others.
Do not try to make any big changes during the holidays. If you however want to change things for the better, do so gradually, taking one small step at a time.
To prevent financial stress after the holiday, decide on a budget that’s right for you and stick to it without feeling guilty if you can’t afford elaborate gifts.
Beat the holiday blues
Everyone has regrets. Forgive yourself for undesirable behaviour during the past year and start the new year afresh.
Spend enough time this holiday on what you find meaningful and enjoyable and try to make celebrations as magical as possible for children.
Set realistic expectations for your holiday, accepting that it won’t be perfect. Acknowledge to yourself when you feel down instead of forcing yourself to be merry. However, resist the temptation to isolate as this may make you feel even worse.
Volunteer or focus on being kind to others in any small way possible. This can help to improve your mood and take your focus away from yourself.
If you are alone during the holiday there are some ways to fight the loneliness. Go out to places that will stimulate and amuse you. Keep yourself busy with a home or garden project or rediscover any creative talents you may have. Spoil yourself (e.g. bubble bath, favourite movies, chocolate). Perhaps arrange a dinner with others in the neighbourhood who are also alone during the holiday.
Prioritize getting enough sleep, preferably seven to nine hours of sleep a night.
Also continue to exercise, although you may need to adjust your regular routine to accommodate holiday celebrations with family.
Still seek out the help of a mental health professional if all the above does not keep feelings of anxiety and depression at bay.
Connecting with your family
Try to accept family members as they are. Do not try to resolve long-standing family conflicts during the holiday. Set realistic expectations about interactions with family members whom you clash with. Consider in advance how you could minimize conflict with them
If you want to improve a relationship with a certain family member, start by communicating clearly without sarcasm and refrain from bringing up any negative events from the past. Also allow yourself some alone time after interacting with a particularly difficult family member to help you clear your mind.
The holidays are about giving and doing for others, but it should not be at your own expense. It is important to still maintain healthy boundaries. Avoid passive-aggressive behaviour by expressing your feelings assertively, but respectfully. Say “no” when you need to and say “yes” when you want to, not only to please others. On the other side of the spectrum, also be careful not to try to control others.
Finally, be careful that your relationship with your smart phone does not contribute to unhealthy family dynamics this holiday season. Constantly checking your phone while in company distracts you from what is going on in the present moment, ultimately leading to disconnection from those around you.
The Meaningful Minds Psychologist team wishes you a happy holiday and a prosperous new year. Please note we are closing on the 15th and will be back on the 8th of January.