10 Tips for Coping with Holiday Stressors
For some, the holiday season is full of sugar, spice, and everything nice. For others it may not be so holly jolly.
The holiday season can be a difficult time for a variety of reasons. From the dizzying array of demands and financial obligations (shopping, cleaning, cooking, entertaining etc.) to the stress associated with travel and social gatherings. There is also the added worry of how COVID-19 will impact holiday plans and fear of isolation and loneliness.
Whatever the reason, know that you are not alone; many people express feeling high levels of anxiety, stress, and low mood surrounding the holidays.
The pressures surrounding the holidays can hurt not only your spirit, but also your mental health. Luckily, with a few practical tips and a little bit of pre-planning you can minimize the stress that accompanies this time of year. Who knows - you may even end up enjoying the holidays more than you thought!
1.Maintain Your Regular Routine
With all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it can be easy to neglect the habits that help us manage our physical and mental health the rest of the year. Maintaining even just a few elements of your typical routine, such as scheduling regular mealtimes, fitting in movement you enjoy, sticking to a solid sleep schedule, and spending time on activities that relax and restore you will help prime you for coping with the added pressures and stressors that arise this time of year.
2. Mind Your Beverages
Raising a glass typically goes hand-in-hand with the holiday season, and though ‘Tis the season to be jolly, drinking more than you intend can negatively impact your mental wellness by impairing your judgement and lowering your mood and inhibitions. To stay in good spirits all season long, familiarize yourself with Canada’s low-risk alcohol guidelines and alternate alcoholic beverages with water or a fun mocktail from my Fun and Festive Holiday Mocktail recipe collection!
3. Give Yourself Unconditional Permission to Eat All the Foods.
The holiday season is a time for comfort and cheer; not counting calories, so let go of the diet rules and behaviours and eat the foods you enjoy. When you give yourself unconditional permission to eat, you remove the “can’t” and “shouldn’t” messaging from the eating experience that often evokes shame and judgement once you've "slipped". Do not force yourself on the dreaded rollercoaster of deprivation and guilt, instead, focus on your hunger cues and the enjoyment you’re getting from the food and holiday experience.
4. Reach out and connect with others.
Spending time with family, friends, or loved ones is one of the best ways to nurture positive mental health and well-being. Grab a coffee, go for a walk, dust off the monopoly board, or fire up Zoom! If you find yourself feeling lonely or isolated, seek out community social, cultural, or religious events or gatherings. Many can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time and talents or doing something to help others is also an excellent way to feel connected with your community and lift your spirits.
5. Don’t Strive for Perfection.
Many people feel pressured to have the “picture-perfect” holiday season – whether it is hosting the “best” gathering or giving the “best” present. This can lead to a lot of stress and disappointment if expectations are not met. Instead, try to enjoy simple, inexpensive traditions and look for meaning and charm in what the holidays bring to you.
6. Stick to a Budget.
Money management can be stressful this time of year. Before you do your gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget and shopping lists. Another option is to think outside of the box - for example, you can donate to a charity in someone's name, give the gift of a homecooked meal, get crafty and go homemade, or start a secret Santa gift exchange.
7. Establish a Game Plan.
Plan your menus, make shopping lists, and schedule EVERYTHING! From shopping, and connecting with friends to baking, cooking, and all other holiday festivities - planning ahead will prevent last-minute panic and scrambling. BONUS: make sure to line up help for meal prep and cleanup – always delegate where you can!
8. Set Boundaries.
Family dynamics can be complex and sometimes avoiding someone who's going to make you feel stressed or triggered is not always possible during the holidays. Perhaps it's that cousin who can't help but comment on your weight, or maybe it's an aunt who feels the need to ask when you're going to get married or have a baby. What ever it is, it is none - of - their - business! Consider setting boundaries and being up front by telling them directly that you will not discuss (whatever that topic is that makes you feel emotionally unsafe) with them. We can't always choose who is in attendance at holiday events, but we can control the self-care practices that we put in place to help protect us in these situations. For example, plan ahead of time to take deep breaths, change the conversation, excuse yourself from the table, or take a walk so you can text a friend.
9. Set Aside Time for Self-Care.
The holidays can be a busy time full of family gatherings, visiting friends, and work parties. When things become too overwhelming, don’t be afraid to say no, take a step back, and prioritize some time for yourself. Remember, you are not obligated to accept every invite you receive; whoever is hosting will certainly understand and get over it if you can't make it.
10. Seek Help if you Need it.
Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently low or anxious. If these feelings continue over a prolonged period with no sign of letting up, talk to your family doctor or a mental health professional. Need immediate assistance? the Canadian Mental Health Association has many resources and contact information for local community supports and services.
Don't let the holidays become something you dread. Instead, take proactive steps to prevent the stress and overwhelm from derailing your holiday spirit.
If you feel like you could benefit from additional guidance in identifying and navigating holiday triggers, such as food or dreaded conversational topics, I can help - fill out a contact form to get started today!
With a little planning and some mindset tweaks, you will be well on your way to finding peace and joy during the holidays.