The holidays can be an emotional time. Following these practical tips, however, can make them more cheerful!
I have mixed feelings for this time of year. On the one hand, I love seeing the cheery decorations and glittering lights brightening the otherwise bleak and dark shorter days, on the other hand, the holidays, with the myriad of demands such as shopping, parties, entertaining, cooking and family obligations, to name a few, can also be stressful. Seeing old friends and family members can be exciting but it can also bring up not so happy memories.
Often times when we get together with family members, we revert to our old childhood patterns and experience feelings of hurt and resentment. Even if we think we’ve done work on ourselves and have moved on, it is an emotional time of year and old feelings can certainly surface. Most of the tension we feel, however, is self- imposed. We don’t want to end up the miserable grouch of the party and go against social obligations and tradition, so we feel the need to be “on” and play nice in order to please everybody. We end up putting a lot of pressure on ourselves.
And for those of us who find themselves recently on their own, or with loved-ones far away, or even departed, it isn’t uncommon to feel depressed and anxious.
The good news is that the holidays don’t have to be so stressful. Planning ahead, being open and realistic, seeking support, but especially being good to ourselves can help alleviate the angst. Learning to let go and to not get caught up in the holiday drama means that perhaps we can even start enjoying this time of year!
Plan ahead & stick to a budget: Use your agenda to set aside days and times for shopping, activities, baking days, seeing friends and entertaining. Make up your grocery and shopping lists ahead of time so you’re not scrambling around at the last minute.
Decide what you can afford and stick to that amount! We hear it over and over again: it’s not how much you spend it’s the thought that counts. Don’t feel the need to show your love with expensive gifts. People truly do appreciate home-made goodies or gifts, donations to a charity in their name, or a family gift exchange.
Be open and stay realistic: Keep an open mind when it comes to the holidays. Let go of control and perfectionism and don’t romanticize past holidays. As families evolve, so do traditions and rituals. Don’t have an idealized version or unrealistic expectations when it comes to family gatherings, because chances are it will not go according to plan and you’ll only end up disappointed. This applies to seeing friends, decorations, travel and all the madness that surrounds the holidays!
Just be you and learn to say “no”: If you’re feeling sad and alone, that’s okay. Acknowledge your feelings and cry if you have to. Don’t force yourself to be cheerful. You don’t have to walk around with a long face either, but try to remain neutral and focus on the positive things the holidays bring, like pretty decorations and bright lights. You can be friendly and cordial without forcing yourself to be happy. Remember that you’re not alone: many people have their own struggles and find this time of year difficult.
Set boundaries when it comes to family, friends and even bosses! Don’t take on more than you can do. Learn to say “no” to too many obligations or when asked for favours. Don’t feel the need to accept every invitation you receive. Otherwise you’ll end up feeling resentful and overwhelmed. These are your holidays too after all!
Get support: When it comes to planning a get together you don’t have to do everything yourself. Ask your friends or family to help out with food, shopping, decorating, etc. With people juggling work and children, pot lucks are getting more popular. Just ask! Make it a fun event where everyone pitches in.
If you’re feeling alone, sad or anxious, it’s okay to ask for support. Find a friendly shoulder to lean on, call up a friend who values you and can help you get grounded. Volunteer at a shelter or visit a retirement home or children’s hospitals. This will bring joy to others and make you feel better about yourself. If you are depressed, there is no shame in seeking the help of your doctor or a professional to help you get through the holidays. You don’t have to take this on by yourself.
Be good to yourself!: This is a time to be extra good to yourself. Buy yourself a treat, read that book you’ve been wanting to read, get a massage, take a long bath or shower and add some relaxing essential oils, binge-watch your favourite series. Try cooking some new exotic dish! If you’re overwhelmed by family, take time out for yourself: go for a walk, get some fresh air, listen to soothing music, meditate (if you don’t know how to, there are some great Apps such as Breathe and Calm) or practice yoga (if you’re new to yoga try Yoga with Adriene videos), and stay in the present moment: don’t get sucked into old patterns with family dynamics. You’re not that person anymore. You’ve evolved!
Make sure that you stay healthy. Try to stick to your routine as much as possible otherwise, it can lead to additional stress. Exercise and rest. Try to eat something healthy before heading out to a party so that you don’t overindulge on junk. Chew your food slowly. Try to avoid drinking too much as alcohol is a depressant. For each alcoholic drink have a glass of water – it will definitely help with avoiding the dreaded hangover!
Remember that it will all be over soon enough. Try to make the best of it, and most importantly, BREATHE!
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