For some of us, the holiday season is a time of conflicting emotions. While we are surrounded by the joy and happiness that the holidays bring, this time of year can also be a painful reminder of lost loved ones, financial insecurities, unresolved family discord, and stress related to time management.
Additionally, the cold and dark weather can make us feel quite tired and lethargic; making it difficult to accomplish things we feel we need to do.
Regardless of the cause of your stress, there are many things you can in order to cope:
- Set a “no gifts” policy with friends and co-workers. This will eliminate stress related to the extra time and cost of additional shopping.
- Keep your physical health in line. Too little or too much sleep or activity can both contribute to how you feel about yourself. Additionally, depriving yourself of holiday treats or overindulging can both create feelings of being out of control. Try to stick your usual eating habits, and keep any or all alcohol consumption within limits, as alcohol is actually a depressant when not used in moderation.
- Change traditions to meet your current situation. Just because something has always been done “this way” does not mean it must stay “this way” forever. Find modified or new ways to honor the things that you value most about the holiday season.
- Keep things in perspective. If what you are stressed about seems to be more of an emotional aspect, volunteer for activities that not only make you feel good about yourself, but also help remind you that you have much to be grateful for.
- Use distracting activities. Unwind at the end of the day by taking a few minutes to complete some type of activity. For example, do a crossword puzzle, read a book, brush a cat or dog, or finish something that has been on your to do list for weeks (if not longer). Not only will the distraction of the activity help soothe your mind, you will have a sense of accomplishment and being positive for (finally) changing the light bulb or putting away that basket of clean laundry.
- Practice mindfulness by using the 5 Senses. Take a hot shower or bath without letting yourself zone out. Pay attention to scent of the soap, the temperature of the water and the sound of it hitting the shower floor. Take a walk on a chilly winter’s day, noting the sound of your feet crunching in snow and the sight of your breath in the air.
- Release pent up stress. Often times, processing your stress by having a conversation with a friend or family member will provide a sense of relief. If this is not an option, try keeping a journal, making lists, or unstructured writing.
If your usual coping strategies don’t seem to be helping, and you are experiencing an above manageable amount of stress, connect to the correct people and professionals. The local area has grief support groups, mental health support groups, individual counselors and agencies available, many with low or little cost. Seeking help when feeling overwhelmed is not a sign of weakness or failure, it is actually a sign that you are strong enough to admit when you need help, and a sign that you want to improve your ability to cope.