2016 has been a rocky year for many people. There have been the emotional rollercoasters of political shakeups and public tragedies that have taken their toll on many of us, in addition to our own personal challenges. The holiday season in December can be just another pressure as we try to plan the perfect family day with all the trimmings, and for some Christmas can just be a big black cloud of sadness. Endless shopping, limited finances, spending time with family you don’t see that often, over-excited children, or just a powerful sense of loneliness, all of this can pile up and add up until you dread the coming festivities.
To set yourself up right for the holiday season this year, here are 12 tips to help. You don’t have to try all of them, just choose one or two that resonate for you:
1. Set your expectations to good and not perfect. Don’t knock yourself out, plan to make it an enjoyable rather than a hectic time, even if it means cooking one less course or attending one less social get together.
2. Ask for help. Don’t feel you should take on everything yourself, whether it be gift buying, wrapping, putting up a tree or cooking, decide what you can cope with comfortably and what is going to push you over your limits, and ask people to chip in.
3. Choose your own way. Decide how you really want to spend the holidays and plan it, whether it be a quiet day at home for two, lunch at a Chinese restaurant or cooking for others at a homeless shelter, decide what would make the day happy for you and go for it. And don’t be afraid to say “No” if you are being pushed into doing things you would prefer not to.
4. Even if the weather is not good, commit to getting outside and doing some physical activity such as walking or raking up leaves. Exercise and fresh air is always an antidote to stress and a great way to lift your mood.
5. Try to balance the excess of alcohol and junk food with some healthy plant-based options so that your energy levels stay high and your mood isn’t dependent on sugar and caffeine highs.
6. Take quiet mind breaks. Whether it be first thing when you wake up, or when you are waiting in line in a busy shop, take a moment to close your eyes and breathe, let your mind wander to a happy place for a few minutes until you start to feel calm, and then come back to your usual surroundings feeling that little bit more able to cope.
7. Don’t isolate yourself completely. In previous posts, I have written about the importance of having people around us. So, whether or not you want to celebrate, find a way to spend some time with others, even if it means phoning around to get yourself invited somewhere, or volunteering for a local charity on the day.
8. Don’t use alcohol or similar substances to numb yourself to get through the holidays. Instead take some time to reflect on what has been difficult this year and how you want to move forward.
9. While you are so focused on gift buying for others, don’t forget to put your own name on the list. What are you going to do or buy to treat yourself this Christmas?
10. If you want to get into the holiday spirit but are struggling this year, reenact some ritual from happier times, even if it means going back to your childhood for inspiration. Don’t worry about who is judging you, just allow yourself some moments of enjoyment and silliness
11. Know that the holidays are just a piece of time, and if you find them stressful they will be over soon enough. Use your energy to plan something to look forward to in January so that the festive period doesn’t leave you feeling flat.
12. If you are finding the dark short days tough, remember that the shortest day is just before Christmas, and after that each day will be increasingly longer while the dark nights are increasingly shorter. Know that there is a natural rhythm to life and the darkest days often precede the brightest of new beginnings.
Whatever you are planning for this festive holiday period, I wish you a wonderful time and much happiness.
If you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed by the festive period and the coming new year, counselling can help you to find strategies to move forward. I offer a free 20-minute consultation so we can explore how I might be able to help you. Please contact me via the contact sheet on this website.