Today's post is written by guest contributor, Roxie McLachlan, a doctorate of psychology student at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA. Roxie is passionate about mental health and working with the older adult population. Upon completion of her school program, she plans to work as a psychologist in private practice. Read on for Roxie's best tips for coping with holiday stress...
It’s the beginning of December and the holiday season is rapidly approaching. During this time, we feel a range of emotions. It is an exciting and energetic time of the year, but it’s not without significant stress. In this blog entry, I have included seven ways that I reduce the stress that often comes along with the holiday season:
1 | Plan ahead
All of the events associated with the holidays can get hectic! Holiday shopping, gatherings, decorating and traveling can feel like so much to do in so little time. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can reduce that holiday-induced stress by planning ahead as much as you can, so that you don’t feel overwhelmed at the last minute. One of the easiest ways to do this is to schedule your holiday shopping in advance (yes, put it in your calendar!) and keep a running list on your phone of what you’d like to get each loved one.
2 | Take time for yourself
With all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it is easy for us to forget to take care of ourselves. But having a little “me” time is essential for reducing anxiety and depression. Whether it is taking a long bath to relax or taking some time to do yoga, make sure you have at least 30 minutes a day to practice self-care. This will also better prepare you for the potential family tensions or conflicts that often accompany holiday gatherings! For more tips, read this post on anxiety-reduction strategies.
3 | Get some sun
Sunlight actually helps you feel better by producing serotonin – or, the “happy hormone” – it is especially helpful if you experience Seasonal Affective Disorder. I’m privileged to live in Southern California where the sun is shining almost every day, so if you live in this area, too, take advantage by throwing on an extra sweater and going for a walk outside. I am surprised how much sunlight helps me when I am feeling down!
4 | Plan a vacation
Vacations are exciting! Planning a trip, whether it is a week in Cozumel or a weekend trip to a neighboring city, can give us something to look forward to. If you are living far away from family, planning a trip to visit your loved ones will help keep you occupied and decrease feelings of loneliness.
5 | Avoid bingeing on food or alcohol
The holiday season brings with it lots of delicious food and drinks. Of course, they should be enjoyed and savored to make the most of your experience. But make sure to bring a mindset of mindfulness to your consumption of food and drinks this season to ensure you're maintaining a healthy relationship with food. If you find yourself eating past fullness or drinking more than you intended to, you may be using food and drinks as emotional crutches, as opposed to facing some of the discomfort and stress that the holidays can also bring. This is not to say that one should feel guilty about their consumption – we all overdo it sometimes! And guilt surely doesn't help any. Just notice your behavior with an attitude of non-judgmental awareness.
6 | Practice staying in the moment
The holiday season itself requires a lot of decisions and, of course, effort. Who will host family gatherings? Who will cook what? What will you buy your family? It can be easy for us to get caught up in all the things we have to do and forget to experience the present moment. The holiday season can bring so much joy and excitement, it is important to experience it. Even if you don’t live close to your family, there are still many fun activities going on around this season – head out and enjoy! Read here for ways to become more mindful throughout your day.
7 | Remember the reason for the season
Whether you’re Christian, Jewish, Muslim, any other religious denomination, or if you are simply celebrating the holidays as an occasion to spend time with family, we must not forget the reason for the holiday! With all the stressors, it is not difficult to forget why you are celebrating. This goes hand-in-hand with being present in the moment. Don’t forget the holiday season for what it means to you!
Thanks for reading and please let me know if you have any additional tips to ward off holiday stress. I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below. I hope you have a lovely and safe holiday season. Be well.