The holidays can be a difficult time of year. This time of year can be hectic and filled with feelings of anxiety and stress, depression, or fear of missing out. Below are three tips for managing the stress that can come with the holiday season.
1.) Set Reasonable Holiday Expectations
It’s important to remember that people change and grow and as this happens, traditions, routines and rituals can change too. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like they were last year- having an expectation such as this is literally impossible. Setting reasonable expectations can alleviate a lot of the stress that happens around the holidays. If an expectation is set and doesn’t get met in the way you were hoping it would- it’s easy to feel upset and resentful. Remember that being realistic helps put issues into perspective, and even though we all hope that there is no family drama or big blow-up arguments- it is impossible to control what our family members do or say. Setting realistic expectations allows you to feel relieved and takes away some of the pressure and stress that comes with unreasonable expectations.
2.) Take Time for Yourself
Putting yourself at the top of your to-do list during the holidays should be your number one priority. No matter the holiday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah…they all have the potential to create feelings of high stress and anxiety. Taking time for yourself and time to breathe can help relieve the anxiety that comes with feeling overwhelmed during the holidays. Make sure you are making time to get enough sleep, recognize that you can’t do it all and be okay with that, and work on keeping your regular routine. Allowing time for yourself will help you to enjoy holiday activities with friends and family in a less stressful manner.
3.) Express Gratitude
Gratitude can help increase positive feelings and help you refocus on the good rather than the stress of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. When we ask ourselves what we are grateful for, even if not able to come up with an answer, research has shown that just thinking about the question has been shown to increase dopamine and serotonin in the brain- minimizing depressive symptoms. So how do you express gratitude? Keep a gratitude journal- write down a few things you are thankful for each day which will help you refocus on what you have- not what you don’t have. Meditation- helps regulates the body’s stress response which can help with sleep and improve mood. Practice a mantra- mantras can be powerful tools and can help you refocus. You can write a mantra on your bathroom mirror with a dry erase marker or on a sticky note in a visible place such as, I am enough or I am whole and complete just the way I am.
These tips are meant to give you some ideas on how to make the holiday season more enjoyable- they may not work for everyone, but the most important thing to remember is that there is no right way to celebrate the holidays, just make sure you are enjoying yourself.
Written by Tanja Gorenc, MA
Tanja Gorenc, M.A., is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Candidate. She is training in both neurofeedback and EMDR.
As a marriage and family therapist, she takes a systemic approach to therapy, meaning she looks at the entire family system when working with clients. She has experience in working with children, adolescents, couples, and families, all of whom she enjoys working with very much.