Mental Health Moment

Mental Health Moment

Nancy Bergeron, R.Psych. |

8 Tips for Beating Holiday Stress

Whether your holidays are celebrated in a secular way or are steeped in traditional religious meaning, they are meant be filled with love, laughter, fun and family closeness. However, for many of us, this can be a time of extreme stress.  What we envision in our minds, see on social media, and depicted in holiday movies, can be truly unattainable. Trying to get everything just perfect to match our expectations evokes visions of the movie classic Christmas Vacation. So much is well intended, however, the execution falls short at each turn. Making lists for gifts and groceries, cooking/baking, house guests, planning for celebrations and family obligations can add up to stress for most people at holiday-time. Help prevent holiday stress with the following tips:

1.     Plan ahead: You know how it goes with procrastination – Christmas Eve spent scrambling through shopping malls and madly wrapping gifts. Plan your shopping list a month ahead and schedule time to shop early. Prepare any meals or holiday treats a few weeks before the holidays.

2.     Make time to relax: Take time for activities you enjoy and find relaxing. For example, enjoy reading in front of a fire, or go skating with a friend or the family. Don’t compromise a relaxing winter evening for another night in the shopping mall. Stay home with the family having a hot chocolate creation day, holiday movies and popcorn night, or family and friend potluck.

3.     Put expectations in check: If you’re hoping for perfection (from yourself or your holiday experience), you might be setting yourself up for disappointment. Be realistic in your holiday preparations and the holiday experience itself.

4.     Look for help: Try not to take it all on yourself. Connect with your spouse, family, and friends and share the responsibilities for holiday shopping, preparing, and cooking. Perhaps a cookie exchange or a potluck style traditional dinner where you are only responsible for the turkey and the guests all bring another part of the feast.

5.     Set limits: Commit yourself to a budget to alleviate post-holiday financial stress. Stick to a certain number of gifts purchased and/or money to be spent. Say “no” to extra holiday work and be honest with yourself about the amount of energy and time you can devote to holiday events and guests. If your social calendar is over-booked, say “no” to an extra pre-Christmas party.

6.     Eat, drink… but be healthy: Holidays are usually full of all your favorite things – including sweets, treats, and cocktails. Practice moderation while enjoying parties and holiday meals. This is the time of year, we need to get sufficient rest, healthy foods and hydration to ward off colds and flus.

7.     Let things go: If family and relative interactions this time of year tend to turn into blow-ups and unmet expectations, the holidays are NOT the time to resolve old issues. We’ve had 11 months to confront these challenges with others in a more controlled, respectful and healthy way. Write your grievances down to address in the early new year to allow time to work through or resolve some of these ongoing issues.

8.     Don’t forget the fun! Remember the reason for all your holiday planning… a season for celebration and time spent enjoying your family and friends. Take the time to remember what this holiday season means to you, and enjoy it! This is where mindfulness comes in…be present and take in all the wonder of the season with all of your senses.

We hope you are able to enjoy the beauty of the winter season and take time to relax and enjoy.

Wishing you and yours, good mental health and all the joys of the season.