ERP 088: How To Cope with Holiday Stress, Dread, and Blues
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Holiday, Dread, and Blues
The season for “holiday cheer” can also be a season for stress, anxiety and angst. We tend to put a lot of expectations on ourselves and it can be difficult to manage these at times. Managing our stress and expectations can especially difficult when we are feeling down, lonely, or challenged.
(Please listen to the podcast episode or read the transcript to hear my stories and examples to describe these points.)
Here are some things that contribute to the holiday stress and blues:
- Unrealistic expectations of self (i.e. amount of time you have to give).
- Unrealistic expectations of others (i.e. quality, loving family time).
- Comparing yourself to others and feeling inadequate.
- Previous painful memories associated with the holidays.
- Recent loss of a loved one or hardship (i.e. loss of job).
- Denying feelings of loneliness, grief, or anger.
- Isolating or feeling not good enough to share in festivities.
- Being away from family and friends (i.e. unable to travel).
- Evaluating your life negatively (i.e. not meeting certain goals, disappointments from the year).
- Challenges with difficult family dynamics.
When people feel stressed, they often resort to bad habits, such as drinking too much alcohol or caffeine, eating too much, eating unhealthy foods, spending too much, not getting enough exercise, and not getting adequate sleep.
5 ways to cope with holiday stress, dread, and blues
1. Slow Down
- Breath and get centered in the moment. Your life is happening now, not tomorrow or two weeks from now. If you are preoccupied with the past or the future, then you are disconnected from life and all that is available to you.
- Shut out the noise (i.e. limit exposure to advertisements). Have discernment about what you let into your world (i.e. frenetic shopping mall).
- Don’t overbook yourself. Say “no” to an invitation if it feels like it will be too much. It may hurt a little to disappointment someone you care about.
- Set your own pace. You get to decide how fast or slow you move through your day. Prioritize your well-being.
- Acknowledge your feelings and connect with yourself first. Be real about what you are feeling, what you need, and what you desire. If you are feeling sadness or grief about a recent loss, it is okay to take time to cry and be sad. Honor what is true for you.
- Reach out to others. Even if you feel lonely or isolated, find opportunities to be social and/or join in community. Even if you do not feel up for it, you may get a lot of value from connecting with others and feeling companionship.
- Look for moments to be present with another person. It is surprising how looking at someone in the eyes and giving them a smile can brighten your day.
- Get involved with a good cause and volunteer your time or talent. Making a difference in someone’s life can be a great way to lift your spirits. Also, you may build some new connections and friendships by volunteering.
- Practice acceptance with difficult family members. You may wish circumstances where different, you may wish a family member was different, or you may wish your relationship was better, but can you accept things the way they are for the moment. You may receive a great sense of grace in accepting someone or something, even if it is not what you would like or prefer.
- Connection is not always in the beauty and joy; it is often in the pain and vulnerability as well.
3. Be You & Do You
- Be honest and real. You do not have to live up to some ideal or perfectionist expectation. You may be in a different phase in life, where the traditional holiday festivities don’t resonate or appeal to you.
- Do what you would love. Give yourself the freedom to do what feels good and meaningful to you.
- Do something different from what you have done in the past. Change it up. Create a new family tradition or try something new this year (i.e. “Gifts from the heart,” share photos and videos with family).
4. Take Care
- Be gentle with yourself. It can be easy to focus on your imperfections and mistakes, as you want to be at your best this time of year. However, thinking negatively about yourself will only bring you down. Try to offer understanding and encouragement to yourself. You will feel better and make better decisions.
- Cut out activities that drain you (i.e. turn on music instead of watching TV).
- Plan ahead and give yourself a budget and a schedule you can stick to.
- Make a point to schedule quality time with someone who adds to your life in a positive way.
- Get out and play. Laugh. Try to do something that brings you joy.
5. Take a breather.
- Take breaks throughout the day to clear your mind and reconnect with yourself. You will feel more refreshed and centered as you accomplish your tasks.
- Build in time for restoration and relaxation. This will help you combat the cumulative effect of stress.
- Be mindful and intentional about incorporating above tips (i.e. slow down, connect, be you and do you, take care).
- You can choose how you move through this season. Care for yourself and prioritize your health and well-being.
Click on this link to access the transcript for this episode: ERP 088: How To Cope with Holiday Stress, Dread, and Blues [Transcript]
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