Don’t let the hustle and bustle of the holidays wear you down. Here’s how you can cope with the stress, anxiety, and depression you may feel in December.
The holiday season can be a time of great joy. But too much of a good thing — too much shopping (and debt), too many parties, too much food and drink, and too high expectations — can bring about stress, anxiety and even the blues. Even those who don’t get depressed can develop other stress reactions that include headaches, over eating and drinking, and trouble sleeping.
What can you do to stay centered and calm during the busiest time of year?
Here are some helpful tips by the Mental Health Association to help you cope:
Keep expectations in check
Try not to aspire to make this holiday the “best ever.” Set realistic goals and pace yourself. Keep yourself organized by making a list and prioritizing the most important activities; keep in mind what you can — and cannot do. Try not to spend too much time preparing for just one day.
Enjoy the season in simple ways
Sometimes holiday stress is multiplied by the pressure to spend too much money. Instead, do things that are free or low-cost. Get together with friends for hot chocolate by the wood stove. Or drive the kids around your town to see holiday decorations. Or even go window shopping, without buying anything.
It is way too easy to overeat or drink too many alcoholic beverages at holiday parties. And remember that gaining weight or drinking too much can exacerbate the “blues” so it is important to stick with your “maintain don’t gain” plan (see below).
Just say no
You don’t have to go to every party or event you are invited to! If you are feeling overwhelmed and would rather go home and read a book or watch a movie, don’t feel pressured just because its supposed to be a “social” time of the year. Saying yes, when you mean “no,” can make you feel resentful and overwhelmed. Remember, find some quality time for yourself. You need a balance.
Give your time
Not everyone is busy this time of year. You may not have friends or family nearby to celebrate the season. Instead of dwelling on what you are missing, focus on giving your time to those need of your help. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or nursing home. Participate in fundraisers for children in need. Volunteering is a sure way to lift your spirits and broaden your social network.
Keep this in mind:
If things get too overwhelming, seek professional help. If you cannot shake your feelings of high anxiety, depression, irritability, hopelessness, or chronic insomnia, talk to your doctor or mental health professional.
MAINTAIN, DON’T GAIN!
The holidays can feel like a no-holds-barred time of year, when you drop your defenses and begin down the slippery slope of eating unhealthy foods, skipping your exercise routines, and overindulging in spiked eggnog. While it’s fun to let your hair down a little, don’t let the season ruin all your healthy habits. Remember, don’t aim to lose weight during this month — just make sure you don’t gain. Here are some tips from the Mayo Clinic:
- Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Incorporate regular physical activity into each day.
Also, take a breather from the hectic pace. 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:
- Taking a walk at night and stargazing.
- Listening to soothing music.
- Getting a massage.
- Reading a book.