This Winning at Mental Health post focuses on the challenges we face during the holiday season.
We are constantly reminded of how we “should” feel about the holidays. We see images of happy shoppers, excited children, families and friends getting together, laughing, and sharing holiday cheer. Festive lights, wrapped presents under decorated Christmas trees, popcorn and classic movies, holiday parties – all remind us that this is the time of year to feel happy and joyous.
And yet, along with the glitz and glamour, the romance and fanfare, the holiday season is one of the most stressful times of the year.
Facing long days and weeks leading up to the holiday break, you’re not immune to the challenges the holidays bring. Increased social and family obligations and pressures, financial worries, feelings of loss or loneliness, and unrealistic expectations are all the ingredients to create the perfect storm of stress, depression, anxiety, overwhelm, physical illness, and wanting to drink or drug.
If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. We want you to know that amidst all the challenges there are things you can do to ease the stress when you feel like you are colliding with the hoiidays instead of easing into them.
MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS
Be realistic about what you can and can’t do given your schedule and the demands of your work. Let go of what you “should” do, think, and feel about the holidays. Especially if you’re a perfectionist, this is key. It’s not realistic to expect the holidays to be perfect. How much time and energy do you have to spend on preparing for the holidays? Don’t commit to tasks you don’t think you can accomplish.
ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR FEELINGS
Feelings have a habit of reminding us they’re there in ways we don’t always want. Is your anger more sudden and sharper than you’d like? Are you crying more often or more easily these days? Are you withdrawing, or acting out more? How’s your body feeling?
It’s important to pay attention and acknowledge how you feel. Talk with a friend, share with your family, let your partner know how it’s going for you right now. Check in with your colleagues to let them know how you are feeling, and how they can support you.
There’s no shame in getting support for the way you feel. In fact, acknowledging that you need support and seeking it out is an act of courage. Vulnerability is not a weakness. Everyone benefits when we take responsibility for our stress, depression, anxiety or addictions.
Continue to go to counselling if you are already going. Get to your support group meetings regularly over the holidays. Suggest alternative options to partying or activities that put you at risk for spiraling, and don’t hesitate to reach out for support when you need it.
TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR BUDGET
Are you stressed about money? Have you created a budget for the holidays? Do you worry about not being able to give your family the gifts they’ve added to Santa’s list? Are you going into the holidays with debt? Or no clue about your financial situation?
It’s never too late to take stock and get help. Knowledge is power! Take some time before shopping or celebrating to figure out how much money you have to spend during the holidays. Then, make a commitment to stick within your budget. Your Employee and Family Assistance or Member Assistance Program isn’t just for mental health counselling – they offer financial and credit counselling too! Make it a New Year’s resolution to get your finances under control. But don’t wait for New Year’s – start now!
BALANCE AND SELF CARE
We often use the holidays as an excuse to overindulge and overdo things. No only do we tend to eat and drink/drug too much, but we let exercise, meditation, alone time, sleep, and quality time with loved ones fall by the wayside.
Overindulgence feels like freedom when we’ve spent so much time and energy at work. Truthfully, overdoing it with food, alcohol/drugs, and parties takes a toll on our bodies, our minds, and often our relationships. How do you want to feel when you go back to work in the new year?
Make healthy meals, get outside and walk, keep your exercise going. Catch up on much-needed sleep, find activities with less focus on drinking/drugging, and make the most of the time you have with your partner, family, and friends. Find and try a meditation app to get you started on managing your mind and learning to relax.
We hope these tips and suggestions will get you thinking about how you can take control of the holidays instead of letting the holidays control you! You can find recommended apps to manage stress and anxiety, help you meditate, breathe, change negative thoughts to positive ones, and generally feel more in control. Don’t let the holidays and stress collide this year!
More than anything, we want you to know there is help and support available. Counselling and crisis support are available through your EFAP or MAP 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.