You hadn’t even taken that last bite of pumpkin pie when the madness began: buy now, pay later, check out where to get it cheapest by scanning labels on your smart phone. Jingle bells, snow days, Christmas lights on palm trees, and lists—oh those lists. Who can I afford to buy a present for this year? Who gets homemade cookies? Who has time to bake? Do I have to attend two Christmas dinners in one day to keep everybody happy? Will Uncle Willie get drunk and try to grab me again? It’s stress, stress, stress.
Or maybe it’s the opposite. Maybe you have no one to celebrate with, no one to buy presents for, and during this dark time of year, you find yourself getting really down in the dumps. Maybe you lost a loved one this year and the holidays just won’t be the same. You’re not going around singing “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”
Do you always get stressed out around the holidays? Too much to do and not enough time or money and/or lonely and depressed? Is there a big difference between how you think you’re supposed to feel and how you are actually feeling?
Here are 10 ideas for getting through the holiday season in one piece:
- Give yourself a break. One of the fastest routes to holiday depression is unrealistic expectations. Be as honest with yourself as possible and set realistic goals. You can’t host the ideal holiday get-together for 20 while working full-time and shopping for the kids and extended family and friends. Don’t be embarrassed to make your holiday celebration a pot luck and spread the work around. As Jane Fonda says, “perfect is over-rated.”
- Don’t be afraid to change your holiday traditions. If you’re a working mom, don’t try to replicate the holiday your stay-at-home mother used to put on. If you’ve gotten divorced, give your kids the gift of a shared holiday without fighting over who gets the kids for which part of the celebrations.
- Keep some sort of routine going. Self care is really important. If you can’t make it to the gym or yoga class, at least go out for a walk. If you stop exercising and are eating and drinking all the holiday goodies, you’ll wind up feeling sluggish (never mind that your jeans won’t zip up anymore) and a little depressed. And try to get as much sleep as your body needs.
- Build in some downtime. All the holiday visiting, the relatives coming, the traveling, doesn’t mean you stop giving yourself some breathing space. Families can be a great source of joy, but also a great source of chaos and misery. Take some time each day just for you.
- And speaking of families, remember that you aren’t married to them. Feel free to opt out of family at the holidays without any guilt whatsoever.
- Keep in mind that alcohol is a depressant. Eggnog is yummy—in small amounts. Parties don’t have to make you depressed. And drink plenty of water.
- If you’ve lost a loved one, find a way to celebrate that person’s life, whether it’s lighting a candle for them when the family gathers or having a good cry on Christmas Eve telling stories of how he or she always loved that night.
- A wonderful way to feel better during this season is to forgive those who have hurt you. Let go of the past. Don’t be disappointed if your holidays aren’t like they were in the “good old days.” Embrace the changes your life has brought. Your spirit will thank you.
- If you feel alone and blue, find a way to help others. Serve holiday dinners at a homeless shelter, visit a nursing home to sing carols, work with a group that helps underprivileged or hospitalized children, send gift packages to those devastated by Hurricane Sandy, write cards to soldiers overseas, and remember what the holidays are really about—bringing more light into the world.
- Drop by a church or synagogue or mosque or temple or reading room or meditation space. Spending 10 or 15 minutes sitting quietly in a dedicated space is a great way to take a deep breath and drop the rushing around in the midst of a stressful time.