Healthy Coping & Holiday Stress

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By Rachel Morici, LPC

It is no mystery that the holidays can bring up depression, loss and overwhelming feelings. The effects are understandable; holidays bring about increased demands, pressure, financial stress and perhaps grief and longing, especially when we have lost a loved one.

Let’s focus on what we can do to minimize the holiday blues while at the same time, allowing space for all of your emotions to breathe and simply “be.”

  1. Be Mindful of Your Emotions. If you are grieving the loss of someone close to you, allow those emotions space to breathe. Know that it is OK to cry, to express your feelings and to feel sad during the holiday season. Acknowledge that your emotions need to be released for your mental and physical well being.

Tips:  Keep a journal of your thoughts/feelings; Notice and name your emotions as they arise; Talk with a trusted friend/family member; practice non-judgment of your emotions; incorporate self-compassion exercises (being kind to yourself, allowing for difficult emotions, then giving them what they need for support).

  1. Remember to Take Care of Your Body. It can be tempting to over-indulge around this time of year. Remember that this will increase your stress, not help it. Stick to a routine of healthy habits as much as possible.

Tips:  Incorporate exercise, even 10-15 minutes a day, to keep your body moving; make healthy food choices; eat much lighter on the days that you attend a holiday event; Get plenty of sleep and nap if possible; institute a daily meditation break.

  1. Seek Out Support. If you are lonely or grieving, seek out resources in your community. Connect with those around you in some way. There are grief support groups, wellness classes, religious and social events. Identify and surround yourself with supportive, comforting people.

Tips:  Volunteer; join a class at the Rec Center; attend a support group, seek professional help such as group or individual therapy; learn about religious groups in your community.

  1. Embrace the Imperfections. Adopt a realistic & balanced view. As families grow and change, often we change and traditions change. The holidays cannot be “Perfect” just as we are not “Perfect.” Courageously Be Who You Are. Accept these changes as a part of life’s journey. Allow for this process to unfold.

Tips:  Create your own new rituals/traditions; Talk openly about your sadness or grief; Embrace your memories, keeping in mind that they are tinged with both happiness and sadness—If your memories bring laughter, smile—If your memories bring sadness, then it’s alright to cry. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.

  1. Practice Gratitude. Just as we embrace our sadness, we must also be aware of all that we have to be grateful for. The simplest things in life are sometimes taken for granted. Make it a daily practice to notice and honor the beauty in our lives.

Tips:  Keep a gratitude journal or fill a jar with stones representing your many gratitude gifts; conduct a brief meditation each morning naming 3 things you are thankful for; Simply be mindful of nature and all its beautiful nuances; watch this TEDTalk on Gratitude–

  1. Commit to a Budget. Often times, shopping becomes an over-indulgence as well. This only creates more stress and guilt. Identify how much you can afford to spend and stick to it.

Tips:  Try alternatives, such as a family gift exchange, giving to a charity or making homemade gifts. Plan ahead as much as possible; make a shopping list.

  1. Set Healthy Boundaries. Learn to say no and make time for yourself amidst the busyness of the season. Avoid overwhelming yourself with too many tasks, favors and events. Saying yes to things when you should say no can cause resentment. Friends will understand that you cannot participate in everything. If an additional task is unavoidable, try to take away something else from your schedule.

Tips:  Make a schedule for yourself; include quiet, alone time, family time and self care time.

  1. Make time for Yourself. Add extra special self care time to your schedule this holiday season. In accepting the stress this time of year, we can then set up our worlds to protect against it. Find something that reduces stress for you and restores your sense of inner calm.

Tips:  Take a mini-vacation; get a massage; practice yoga; read with a calming cup of tea; watch nature; listen to soothing music; draw, paint or doodle; breathing/relaxation exercises; meditate with a youtube video; look at old photos; take a bubble bath

*Encourage the whole family to practice ANY of these TOGETHER.*