Marla Vender, LCSW
Holiday Pressure Can Be Beat
Updated: Dec 5, 2018
Holidays can bring out the best and worst in us. This time of year can bring up big feelings, especially related to grief and loss. The pressure to be filled with joy and celebrate the spirit of the season can be overwhelming, and deepen feelings of loneliness, sadness, and anger. If you find yourself feeling extra stressed, or symptoms of anxiety or depression worsening, try to work in some of these tips this year:
Ease up on yourself. Have reasonable expectations of yourself and others. You may not find the perfect gift, get the invitation you were expecting, or mail the cards out on time. Instead of striving for perfection, aim for good enough. This is a time to enjoy the company of family and friends, not to showcase your decorating skills or culinary prowess. Set a budget for spending, and stick to it.
Say no. A coworker once added me to the Secret Santa exchange without asking me, and I asked her to take me off the list. Nobody got hurt, nothing was ruined. Know your limits, and set your boundaries. There’s no rule that says you must do everything that’s asked of you, attend every party, host every party, or anything else that feels like too much for you.
When things feel too hectic or out of control, take a breather. You can focus on your breath almost anywhere or anytime. Try resonant breathing or square breathing: Inhale for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4.
Avoid making resolutions for the New Year. January 1st is not a magical date that restarts the clock on your life. It’s not as if you suddenly realized it would be good for you to get to the gym. You knew that in September. Whatever you think you’re going to fix will continue to be a problem until you prepare to address it. Change requires planning, time, and patience.
Whether it’s making plans with family and friends, or volunteering to help others, making connections helps ease depression and feelings of loneliness.
Stick to your exercise, and sleep schedules, and eat well. Sugar, fat, and alcohol are abundant this time of year and are not good for your mental and physical health. It’s good to let loose once in a while, but try to keep your routine on most days.
Prepare ahead of time to prevent feeling overwhelmed. Instead of finding the perfect gift, ask people what they want or purchase gift cards instead. Shop early when you have more time. If you’re hosting, ask guests to bring something for the table, and use some prepared foods instead of making everything from scratch.
Ask for help when you need it.
Set your priorities according to your values. Consider taking a vacation or trying something new during the holidays. If not this year, make a plan for next year. Do something you want to do instead of what you think you should do.
Take good care of yourself, you deserve to feel good. If you think you could use some extra support, don’t hesitate to reach out to someone you trust, or contact a therapist for professional help.