The holiday season is said to be the most wonderful time of the year, but for some of us, the reality is that the holidays can cause or increase stress and depression, which can be triggered when there is difficulty adjusting to a change in daily routine or an overload in familial, social, and work obligations.
To prevent stress and depression getting the best of you this season, it is important to recognize your holiday stress triggers. Once you know what causes you turmoil during the holidays, you can learn to take control, setting realistic goals and expectations for the holidays and keeping your own limitations in mind.
For a more relaxing holiday season this year, here are a few holiday “Do’s” and “Don’ts” that might be good to put into practice:
Do set a budget. Avoid overspending and financial stress by setting a realistic holiday budget with yourself, your family, and your friends. Come up with solutions together to spend less, such as creating a secret Santa exchange or joining with others to give a combined gift.
Do manage your expectations. It’s easy to get carried away with what you should or should not be expected to accomplish during the holiday season, but comparing yourself to others will only lead to disappointment and frustration. Keep in mind that the holidays are never exactly as you plan or expect them to be, and that is okay. Take each day as it comes and embrace your successes as opposed to focusing on how you think things should have happened.
Do volunteer. Take the time to help those less fortunate than you. Try volunteering at a soup kitchen or working for a toy drive. Knowing that you are making a difference and bringing joy to other people’s lives can bring comfort and peace to you.
Do seek help. Despite trying your best to stay positive and relieve your stress, you may find yourself feeling constantly sad or anxious, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face your daily routine. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional about seeking alternative solutions and treatments.
Don’t say yes to everything. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with the amount of activities, projects, or family gatherings going on this season, allow yourself to pick and choose what you want to participate in. You don’t need to be involved in everything, and people will understand if you want to sit out and miss a holiday party or Yankee swap. Saying yes to everyone when you want to say no can often leave you feeling resentful and stressed.
Don’t forget your healthy habits. The holidays can take a toll not only mentally but also physically. To help avoid poor eating habits this season while still enjoying your favorite meals, try setting some basic guidelines you know you’ll be able to follow. A few examples are eating mostly healthy during the week but giving yourself a “cheat day” or two to have the cake or cookies you’ve been craving. Be picky with the foods you eat – don’t waste calories on foods you do not like just because they may be in front of you. Finally, try eating larger portions of fruits and veggies at each meal balanced with smaller portions of high calorie food choices.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself. As we mentioned earlier, this time of year can be extra hard to manage stress and depression, which is why it’s more important than ever to make a conscious effort to take a breather and enjoy some time to yourself. A few things you can do to unwind and de-stress are writing down things you are grateful for, going outside for walks, taking extra naps, and exercising.
For more ideas on coping with holiday stress and depression, please check out this online resource.