The holiday season has arrived and while this time is often one of great joy and celebration, the quest to achieve perfection can often add pressure and stress to any person or relationship. Seasonal activities filled with excitement and anticipation can be a new source of anxiety, depression, and temptation. These high expectations and new stressors on top of existing work-related responsibilities, like meeting end-of-year deadlines and deliverables, can feel daunting and almost overwhelming at times.
The pandemic has only increased the need for holiday resilience as we try to navigate a “new normal” while traveling, attending festive gatherings, and visiting crowded public spaces. While many are eager to resume “pre-pandemic” traditions, many new health and safety variables associated with COVID-19 are at play. The fear of exposure along with potentially uncomfortable conversations about a family member’s vaccination status and mask wearing etiquette, can have many questioning if it’s truly “the most wonderful time of the year.”
Uncertainty and adaptability have been overarching themes over the past 20 months and still ringing true this holiday season. Although we are unable to predict and control every aspect of plans, we do have the ability to take certain precautions and steps in protecting our mental health and well-being.
Here are some tips to consider:
- Opening Lines of Communication and Setting Clear Expectations
Risk tolerance differs from person to person, so it’s important to have open communication and set clear expectations amongst family and friends to make sure people feel safe and comfortable. Consider disclosing vaccination statuses and health vulnerabilities, making an agreement on testing and quarantine protocols as well as “house rules,” such as when to wear masks, how to greet one another (waves, fist bumps or hugs), and the size/location of gatherings.
- Saying No is Okay
In this season of gratitude and giving, one’s generosity doesn’t always mean reaching into their wallet. Time and energy are unique, and often our most important currencies that should be spent with your best interest in mind. The tendency of overcommitting so not to disappoint others can create unhealthy boundaries and result in burnout. Give yourself the gift of peace by building in time for self-care and creating opportunities to recharge and reflect on your needs and priorities. Be kind to yourself and practice positive self-talk.
- Staying Present Amongst the Presents
While it can be easy to get wrapped up in the gifts and distracted by planning the perfect dinner party, take time to reflect on what you are truly grateful for and acknowledge those people and experiences. Although a slightly dried out turkey may seem like the end of the world in the moment, your loved ones will only remember the laughs and smiles shared. Be realistic and flexible with expectations by focusing on the true meaning of the holidays.
- Maintaining Healthy Routines and Habits
The holiday season is filled with temptations – the temptation to overindulge while breaking bread with loved ones, the temptation to stay out celebrating a few extra hours and skipping that morning workout. While these activities may feel like the right decision in the moment, the temporary satisfaction could increase overall anxiety and stress levels. By practicing mindfulness and balance, you can enjoy the special holiday treats and activities while also maintaining adequate sleep, exercise, and a nutritious diet.
- Avoiding Drugs and Overindulging in Alcohol
For many, the holidays are filled with toasts to good health and cheer. These celebrations built on good intentions though can lead to temptations of overindulgence and misuse. The misuse of alcohol and drugs to temporarily cope with emotions and uncomfortable situations can lead to ones’ anxiety and depression worsening. Rather than using alcohol and drugs “to take the edge off,” seek alternative healthier mechanisms like talking with a friend, walking outside or journaling. If you’re looking for help for drug or alcohol use, see the federal government’s treatment locator or call 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
This holiday season, take the time to “check in” with yourself like we often do so often for others. By being gentle and honest with yourself, listening to and recognizing your own feelings and needs, you’ll be better equipped to navigate stressful events and dynamics. Take a deep breath and enjoy “the most wonderful time of the year.”