Reduce the Stress and Enjoy The Holiday Season

Tobi Russell LPC, LLP, CAADC, CCS-M

The holidays are here again and we are starting to see the hustle and bustle all around the community. The decorations are up, the shopping has begun and plans are being made for holiday lunches and dinners. It can be easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of it all and forget about self-care. Here are some thoughts to consider for making it through the holidays with less stress.

The first key is taking time for yourself. This can be difficult when you feel pressure to be everything to and for everyone else. However, there are only 24 hours in a day and you are only one person. Focusing on self-care is really the best thing you can do for yourself and for others, because others will enjoy you more if you are stress-free. Go for a walk, listen to your favorite music, read a good book, or watch a movie or TV show. Whatever activity you choose, let it be something that helps to recharge your batteries.

The next key is to have realistic expectations. There is no such thing as a perfect holiday celebration. Accept that you will have things that do not go as planned and use those times as ways to grow your own flexibility. If the cookies get burned or the dog tears open the wrapping paper on the presents under the tree, the tendency can be to think that the day is ruined. However, these can be looked at as family memories to laugh and bond over for years to come.

The other unrealistic expectation is that you must buy every single present that is on the wish list for your child or family members. This can cause a great deal of financial stress on individuals when they are unable to get everything. Be honest about what you are able to buy and do not go beyond your limit. For children, talk to them about the reason for the season and that the holidays are not about getting expensive gifts. One way to actively teach children about giving back is through volunteering at a charity. This time of year can also bring up feelings of grief and loss regarding the absence of a loved one, either through separation or death. The holidays can be a reminder that the person is no longer a part of your life. Allow yourself time to grieve the losses in your life, but also give yourself time to celebrate the person or the traditions that they created. If you had a strained or poor relationship with the family member, allow this to be a time where you create new traditions or memories. Sometimes individuals can notice feelings of sadness related to the shorter days and the cloudy, snowy weather. Some can experience a form of depression known as seasonal affective disorder. If the season is a trigger for your feelings, consider changing some of your routines and get as much natural light as possible, exercise and utilize stress management techniques. Other options are light therapy, which is a box with a special lamp that simulates sunlight that you can use daily or through talking therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy.

The last key is to talk with your support systems if you are feeling sad or anxious. Getting your feelings out in the open can help you work through your thoughts and the person you are talking to may be able to help you come up with a solution. If you continue to feel overwhelmed by your emotions, consider seeking out a professional to help you manage your holiday stress.

From everyone at Rochester Area Counseling Services, we wish you a happy and stress-free holiday!

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