Walking through Target in the middle of October, I was dismayed yet again to see workers in red shirts placing fake Christmas trees on displays and hanging Christmas lights in the "holiday" portion of the store. The holidays have changed from a few days of celebration in the winter, to an eight week blow out including a black Friday mad rush, the push for the perfect Christmas gift for the in-laws and enough pie to make anyone sick. And sick is what happens to many people during this busy and stressful time of year, not only because the flu is going around but also because we aren't taking the time to properly care for ourselves.
Caring for yourself year round is important, but ensuring you are physically and mentally well during the holidays can be the difference between a miserable family get together and properly enjoying the holidays. Below are 4 ways to combat holiday stress and be sure to take care of yourself:
1. Set healthy boundaries with family and friends
Some families want to spend every moment of the holidays together, while others struggle to even be in the same room together. Regardless of your family of origins preference, determine how much time you want to spend with your family and stick to it. If its important to have that Christmas Eve dinner but opening presents after stresses you out, tell your family thank you for hosting and let them know in advance you will be leaving early.
2. Identify your values and priorities and spend time doing those
Do you not care at all about caroling but love to decorate the tree with your kids? Do you hate the eggnog but love pumpkin pie? Do you value time with friends over family? Determine what is important to you about the holidays and spend time doing just that. It can be exhausting trying to keep up with the Joneses and in the end the only thing that truly matters is that the holidays are spent how you would like to spend them.
3. Continue the healthy patterns you have created throughout the year
The holidays have a way of causing us to get out of rhythm with our regular schedule. Holiday parties, family dinners, volunteering and time off work all contribute to a lack of schedule. Its important to continue any healthy patterns you typically have including sleep/wake schedules, working out, taking time for yourself or making sure you are staying hydrated.
4. Utilize positive coping skills
Regardless of how stress free you intend for your holidays to be, inevitably things will get stressful. The turkey may turn out dry and your cousins kids may meltdown after presents are opened, but having a set of positive coping skills teed up and ready to go can help you deal with unwanted stress. A few great holiday ideas are:
Wishing you the best this holiday season! Be sure to take care of yourself.
Amber Reed, LSCSW
Resolve - Counseling and Wellness Center
8340 Mission Rd. #230
Prairie Village, KS 66206