While many people enjoy the holidays, there are a significant number of individuals who find The Most Wonderful Time of the Year to be a time of stress, anxiety and depression. Allyson Bowman, Adult Social Services Coordinator at Parkridge Valley Adult and Senior Campus, offers a Top 10 list of coping strategies and tips to navigate the demands of the holiday season in a healthy way.
1. Let go of PERFECT. “People put pressure on themselves to engineer the perfect holiday – the perfect meals, gifts, decorations, etc. Manage your expectations and set reasonable goals for yourself,” said Ms. Bowman. “Your family and friends are going to remember the time they spent with you, not what your house looked like or how your presents were wrapped.”
2. Budget Wisely. “Take a few minutes to sit down and calculate what you can comfortably spend for gifts and other holiday expenses, and make every effort to stay within your limits,” said Ms. Bowman. “This will keep you from stressing about accumulated debt after the holidays are over.”
3. Practice healthy habits as much as possible. “There is so much going on during the holidays that it can be easy to let your sleep and exercise routines fall by the wayside. Make a concerted effort to stay active and get adequate rest.” Bowman recommends activities that combine an opportunity to get moving with a holiday celebration. “There are several holiday-themed fun runs and walks in our area – consider making one of those activities part of your family tradition.”
4. Take a breather when you need it. Build downtime into your holiday schedule – “It’s important to take some time for yourself when needed,” said Ms. Bowman. “Do yoga, read a book, go for a walk, take a nap – whatever works best to recharge your batteries.”
5. Delegate. “Don’t be afraid to share responsibility for planning and execution of holiday events and activities with friends and family,” said Ms. Bowman. “You’ll be less likely to end up feeling overwhelmed.”
6. Make new memories. “Don’t be afraid to swap out an old holiday tradition with a new activity that works better for you. Circumstances change, and it’s important to be flexible and create traditions that work for you,” said Ms. Bowman.
7. Give back. “Volunteering during the holidays is a great way to socialize and feel good about helping others,” said Ms. Bowman.
8. Cultivate patience. “When family and friends get together, there are many opportunities for misunderstandings and disagreements,” said Ms. Bowman. “Just remember that you have come together to celebrate a holiday, not argue endlessly. If you find yourself getting upset, try to agree to disagree, or remove yourself from the situation. This will make the holidays easier not only for you, but those around you as well.”
9. Mourn if you need to. If the holidays bring up memories of loved ones, allow yourself to feel sadness and grief. “It’s okay to mourn if you have lost a loved one or if you can’t be with your loved one during the holidays,” said Ms. Bowman. “It’s normal and healthy to feel sadness – unexpressed emotions can be the most destructive.” Give yourself permission to feel those feelings, then take the steps to move past them – either by getting out and doing something active, reminiscing about happy times with friends and family, or by doing something for someone else. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help from your friends and loved ones if you need it.
10. Seek help if you need it. “If you have significant feelings of anxiety, irritability or sadness that last for several days, seek professional help,” said Ms. Bowman. “Parkridge Valley has a 24-hour RESPOND hotline staffed by medical professionals who can give advice on treatment for your condition or refer you to a mental health provider.”