‘Tis the season to get stressed out!

A lot of people think the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year. For many, however, the reality is a time of doom and gloom, an overwhelming period of angst and anxiety.

Some people just don’t enjoy the pressure to socialize with colleagues, buy gifts and travel (sometimes in bad winter conditions). For some, it goes further with family drama, bad memories, poor self-care and missing lost loved ones.

In fact, the National Institute of Health says the Christmas holidays show a high incidence of clinical depression.

According to one psychologist quoted in a Healthline article, it’s because we’re bombarded by media (think department store ads and your Facebook news feed!) of happy, smiling families and friends. It exacerbates our feelings of loneliness and a lack of fulfilment on which, at other times of year, we may not focus.

“People may start to question the quality of their own relationships,” says Adam K. Anderson, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Toronto.

The same article cites a 1999 Canadian study of patients treated by emergency psychiatric services during the Christmas season:

The most common stressors were feelings of loneliness and “being without a family.

It does take a little extra effort when there’s so much going on around us, but we do have to take care of ourselves.

How to avoid holiday burnout

christmas puppies

Some people like to de-stress by looking at puppy or cat pictures on Facebook all day. Hmm … that might not be so productive!

Here are my tips on how to participate in a little self-care and make sure you get through the holidays with a clear mind.

1. Maintain

Stick to your normal routine as much as possible. The holidays are especially exciting and exhilarating for families with young children. Keeping a sense of purpose with the daily schedule can keep everything from getting too chaotic.

2. Plan

Have a game plan for the environments you know you’re going into. If you have a large family and know there will be 30 people at family gatherings, set a strategy on how to manage your connections. (Exit strategies are good to have, too … I know one couple keeps a signal word so they can communicate to each other when it’s time to go.) You know the volume and energy levels will be high.

3. Make family agreements

If you’re hosting a family dinner, are you cooking everything yourself or are others contributing? Make agreements within your family so it’s smooth sailing.

4. Don’t overspend

There’s so much emphasis and expectations around gifts over the holiday season and it’s easy to get caught up in the giving spirit. Gifts don’t have to cost you money. Give the gift of time or elf (task) coupons that can be cashed in; create an experience. Remember, your credit card bill will show up in January whether you like it or not!

5. Have quiet time

This is the time for extroverts to shine but introverts like me need to make sure we decompress. Read, meditate, practise yoga, listen to music, go for a walk … whatever! Escape the craziness with your “me” time.

6. Don’t overindulge

Whether it’s alcohol or turkey and gravy, manage your intake. If we’re already feeling a bit poorly about ourselves, overindulging can heighten those senses of self-negativity. And your body will thank you for it!

7. Say no

It’s OK to stay home once in a while. You don’t have to hit every party, every tree -lighting and every cookie exchange. It isn’t rude to say “no” because you need time to yourself.

8. Reach out

It’s never too late to pick up the phone to call, text or email someone who can help. If you need to talk, find a family member or friend who you can count and have a de-stress session.

9. Give thanks

We should all keep a list of things — one you write out or one you keep in your head — for which we are grateful. Gratitude has amazing physical, psychological and social benefits. Most of all, it reminds us to find something good in every day.

Most importantly, enjoy your holidays with what brings you joy. It’s about the experiences you create, not about the environments you’re in.

Make the best of it, whatever you’re doing and wherever you’re doing it!

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