Festive parties, around the clock shopping, bright lights, holiday music, and an abundance of food and drink … the holidays are upon us. For some the Yuletide season evokes childlike joy but for others it brings feelings of dread and anxiety. Obligations that come with the holiday season can be overwhelming, especially for those living with a mental illness. Here are 10 tips to reduce the stress and anxiety around the holiday season.
1) Learn to say no. If you are feeling overwhelmed exercise your right to decline invitations. You can also suggest one-on-one visits if larger gatherings are difficult.
2) Plan ahead. Set aside days for shopping, baking, visiting friends so you are in control of your schedule.
3) Take initiative. Some people enjoy relaxing in solitude but if you’d prefer to be around others there are options. Find a volunteer opportunity, look for local community or religious events, and let those around you know you’d like to be included in holiday activities.
4) Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died it’s normal to be sad. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
5) Stick to a holiday budget. Create a list and a budget before you begin shopping. If finances are a source of anxiety decline gift exchanges, make homemade gifts or suggest an activity… such as coffee date or a homemade dinner.
6) Control the environment. Shopping for gifts can be overwhelming. Avoid large crowds and emotional purchases by shopping online in the comfort of your own home.
7) Connect with loved ones. Travel costs can be prohibitive. Instead of traveling during the holiday use technology to connect with loved ones. Skype, Google Hangout and Face Time are great options.
8) Practice self-care. Take sometime for yourself, get plenty of sleep, eat healthy, stick with your exercise routine, and be careful not to overindulge.
9) Be prepared. Sometime family gathering can be challenging. Know the steps you will take to handle uncomfortable family situations. 1) Remove yourself from a difficult situation; 2) Rehearse replies to the questions that will be coming your way, 3) Be honest and let someone know if they are bringing up a sensitive topic that you would rather not discuss.
10) Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.
Here’s wishing everyone a safe, healthy, and happy holiday season.
Sources: Mayoclinic.org, Mentalhealthamerica.com