The holiday season often brings unwelcome guests — stress and depression. And it's no wonder. The holidays present a dizzying array of demands — parties, shopping, baking, cleaning and entertaining, to name just a few.
When stress is at its peak, sometimes it's hard to stop and regroup. But with some practical tips, you can minimize stress that sometimes accompanies the holidays.
Acknowledge your feelings.
If you have recently lost someone close to you, or you can't be with loved ones this year during the holidays, realize that it's normal to feel sadness and grief. It's OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can't force yourself to be happy just because it's the holiday season.
If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
The holidays don't have to be perfect or "just like last year". As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can't come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos.
Set aside differences.
Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don't live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they're feeling the effects of holiday stress, too.
Stick to a budget.
Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don't try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Try these alternatives:
Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That'll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.
Learn to say no.
Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can't participate in every project or activity. If it's not possible to say no when your manager asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
Don't abandon healthy habits.
Don't let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Try these suggestions:
Take a breather.
Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm. Some options may include:
You can also reach out to the Employee Assistance Program provided by your employer for free counseling and.resources. This service is completely confidential.