As everyone knows, the holidays are psychologically challenging.
Pharmacies are sold out of sedatives and liquor sales go through the roof.
Of course, children don’t know anything about this because reality is kept at arm’s length so we can live vicariously through them.
The holiday season often brings along stress and depression – to name just two [a thousand come to mind].
And no wonder.
The holidays present a ridiculous array of demands — parties, shopping, cooking, cleaning, interacting with people you haven’t seen in a long time under fragile pretenses.
But with some practical tips, you can minimize the stress.
You may even end up enjoying the holidays more than you thought you would, which is better than nothing.
According to the Mayo Clinic staff, here are 10 ways to keep stress on the low end of crazy:
1] Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, 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.
2] Reach out 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.
3] Be realistic. 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.
4] 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 and depression, too
5] 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
6] Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities.
Plan your menus and then make your shopping list.
That will help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients.
And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.
7] 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 boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time
8] Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all.
Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.
9] 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
10] Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores.
If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.
According to reality as I know it, here are my top 10[not that I’m dismissing any of the aforementioned]:
1] Schedule a therapy appointment
[at least a month in advance of the holidays so you don’t have to go back for another 3].
2] Make sure your medications are up to date and readily available
[in the event of an unforeseen catastrophe, including all of them].
3] Make sure to plan for time to workout.
The stress relief will help defray the cost of refills.
What I do is stare at my hands and see if I can get my fingers to stop shaking.
5] Wear something comfortable to gatherings so you can stretch out and cross your legs when tensions run high.
I find myself massaging my feet a lot.
Don’t get wasted, but a pleasant buzz will help pass the time as you read the liner notes on a Pink Floyd CD compendium.
7] Breathe deeply and often.
When someone asks you what’s wrong, just tell them you like to breathe a lot. That usually does the trick.
8] Bring headphones.
I have found that headphones are a great way to break through stressful situations, even if you have to put them on during bathroom breaks.
9] Pretend to pay attention.
Even if the conversation is boring enough to trigger unconsciousness, just smile and stare into space. I know everyone’s crown molding by heart.
10] Accept the fact that your nieces and nephews are younger than you are, and will probably find a way to challenge your chronological authority.
This is normal, particularly with males, as they attempt to bludgeon their way to the top of the human food chain.
Whatever they say, just nod and go back to staring at the crown molding.
It is a myth that suicide rates are higher during holidays than at other times of the year.
This is because holidays maximize social connection for most people, no matter what it may look or feel like.