SURVIVING HOLIDAY STRESS from bp magazine winter 2015 Every year the holiday season swings around again, a festive period of joy and light—or maybe not so much. The very things that define the holidays, from big family feasts to planning gifts for our children, can also be the things that make us feel stressed, depressed and anxious. At the least, increased temptations and time demands can disrupt the management strategies that keep depression in check. To survive holiday stress and make the most of the coming weeks, you’ll need to be proactive.
7 Steps for Surviving Holiday Stress: 1. The first step in your holiday coping strategy is to know thine enemy. In other words, take stock of your particular pressure points. Do you succumb to sweets and rich foods? Fret yourself into an anxiety spiral because you can’t afford everything on your child’s wish list? Maybe you start to feel more isolated because of all the emphasis on family togetherness. Use past experience as a guide to identifying your triggers.
2. Once you know your danger zones, you can bring some clear-eyed problem solving to bear. You might find it helpful to call a family meeting, brainstorm with a friend, or enlist a therapist to help you identify positive measures you can take.
3. Remember that a healthy diet and routine armor you against depression. Yet from the cornucopia of the Thanksgiving table to the tempting bubbles of New Year’s champagne, there are ample challenges to your willpower and commitment to a healthy lifestyle. Sit down with a blank page and ask yourself this: “How can I ensure that I remain healthy during the holidays?” Once you’ve recorded your thoughts, develop a list of goals (specific and realistic) and challenges (what typically pulls you off track). Day-by-day, track your frustrations and feelings and mark your achievements. If you’re prone to getting in your own way, this process will definitely help. And it never hurts to fold in small rewards along the way.
4. Speaking of that to-do list, write down all the things you think need to be done and all the invitations you’d like to accept, then take a calendar and rough out a schedule of when they need to happen. Next, think hard about what’s really central to your personal celebrations—the heart of your holidays, so to speak. To protect your well-being, you may have to make tough choices about trimming back some traditional activities. For example, you may have to weigh the emotional and physical costs of traveling to see family against the potential hurt feelings and feuds if you don’t go.
5. Accept that you, yourself, can’t do it all. Are there ways to divvy up tasks? Allowing each member of the household to choose preferred tasks may improve their willingness to help. Or maybe the party you always host could be a potluck this year. Most importantly, take a breath and have faith that somehow, it will all get done.
6. As with so much in life, attitude is everything. Sometimes dealing with holiday stress boils down to tweaking your own outlook. Placing unrealistic expectations on yourself and the people around you is a surefire guarantee of disappointment and conflict. If there are certain relatives who always set you off, stop wishing that others would change and remind yourself—as often as necessary—that you can control only what you think, feel and say, not how others treat you. Endeavor to look past irritations and find ways to be grateful. For example, let go of self-critical feelings if the house isn’t spotless as your guests arrive and focus instead on how much you enjoy their company. Yes, this takes some practice, but there’s plenty of research proving that nurturing an attitude of gratitude has benefits for your physical and mental health.
7. If all else fails and you do slip into depression, accept that you are only human. Turn to trusted professionals as needed, revisit tried-and-true techniques for recovery, and hold onto the knowledge that like the holiday season, this too shall pass.
Edited by Facilitator Support Group DBSA Roland Park