How to Cope with the Holidays

Problem #1 – “I Feel Overwhelmed!”

There is rarely enough down time during the holidays and we often feel pulled too thin. We may feel compelled to do and be everything all at once, which often leads to feeling immense pressure. This can be compounded by television and social media depicting everyone else seemingly effortlessly enjoying themselves. So what do you do?

First, know that almost everyone experiences high levels of stress during the holidays. Some feel overwhelmed financially and others feel unable to meet all the expectations thrust upon them. Know that you are not the only one.

Consider making a list of all of your to-dos. Write each down and decide which ones fit in each category:

  • Things that I have no control over and need to accept as they are
  • Things that will work themselves out with time
  • Things that I can do something about right now
  • Things that I can work on but need to wait until later

Pick the top two or three that you can work on right now and make an action plan for yourself (i.e.: what small steps can I take to address this today?)

If your worries persist, set aside a specific time each day to worry for half an hour and if your worries try to get your attention outside of that time tell them that they need to wait for their appointment.

To limit your stress, limit your commitments. Consider shortening your gift buying list or spending less time at the office party. Give yourself more time to breathe. Choose to attend just the celebrations that you are really looking forward to so that you allow yourself more time to enjoy the people and activities that you care most about.

Problem #2 – “The Holidays are Sad for Me”

For many, the holidays are a reminder of something that is lost or missing in life. This may be the first year that you spend without a loved one or you may feel far away from the people you love. Coping with loneliness and loss is a struggle for a lot of people during this time of year.

If the holidays remind you of pain or loss, it is essential to allow yourself ample time to grieve. Consider giving yourself a break from the merriment to remember the person or thing that you miss. Write a journal entry or speak to a friend who also remembers that person fondly. Don’t force yourself to feel joyful if you don’t, allowing space for sadness and absence.

Reconnect to the people with whom you do feel close. If you know that a particular day is challenging for you, consider making plans to be with people who love you on that day. If your loved ones are far away, schedule a few phone calls or write emails. You can also connect with meaningful experiences that may include prayer, meditation, or quiet reflection.

Problem #3 – “I Just Don’t Feel in the Spirit”

There’s nothing wrong with feeling like the holiday spirit eludes you. Some people just aren’t “holiday people” and sometimes even the most festive of us have a year that feels less than merry. When this happens, consider doing a quiet holiday. This might involve making minimal plans with only the most important people, not participating in gift exchange, or taking the holiday as an opportunity for quiet reflection.

If you want to feel in the spirit but you just don’t, consider turning your attention towards others in need. Call a relative who you know tends to be lonely or volunteer for an entire day at a soup kitchen or animal shelter. If you feel like you could use a fresh start in preparation for the new year, go through your clothes, shelves, and cupboards and find items to donate to charity.

There’s no one way to participate in the holidays so find what works for you.

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