The holiday season is full of fun, joyful moments. But it can also be packed with stress as well. Busy schedules, financial concerns, difficult family dynamics and competing priorities can all add up to leave you feeling overwhelmed, tired and even wishing for it all to be over with. But there are things you can do to help manage your emotions and your time (during the holidays and all year long) so that stress doesn’t steal your joy.
When you’ve got a lot of things to do and many places to be it’s very easy to feel overwhelmed, which is a major trigger for stress. The solution is to plan ahead. Making lists and actually scheduling time for everything (even holiday shopping and everyday errands) will take a load off your mind and help to ensure you don’t wind up in a panic when something gets forgotten.
Use the calendar app on your phone to keep track of appointments and commitments, as well as to make appointments with yourself to accomplish tasks like shopping, errands and other necessary “to-do’s.” You can even set an alarm for each calendar entry as an additional reminder. This is a great way to keep a hectic life organized and flowing smoothly no matter what the time of year.
Don’t Expect Perfection; Do Keep Things in Perspective
The scenes of blissful family joy and perfectly decorated homes that you see on TV during the holidays can put a lot of pressure on you to feel real life is supposed to match up. The simple truth is that it doesn’t.
It’s OK to want your holiday celebrations to feel joyful and to want to pick the perfect gift to make your loved ones’ eyes light up. But if something doesn’t go exactly according to plan or how you hoped, remember to keep perspective. Real life is not perfect, and things will go wrong. What’s important is how you handle those instances. Taking mishaps in stride will allow you (and even those around you) to stay happy and focused on what really matters, which is each other.
Protect Your Time and Your Boundaries
Especially at a time when you’re already stretched thin for time and energy, it’s important to set and honor boundaries for yourself. It’s wonderful to give your time and talents to others, and you should, but never at the expense of your own wellbeing.
Remember that it’s OK to say “no.” If this is difficult for you, having a polite but firm response prepared ahead of time can go a long way toward avoiding agreeing to things you just don’t have the time or interest to do. Something like, “I love what you’re doing and am so flattered you’ve asked for my help, but I’m afraid I can’t right now. I’ve already got a lot of prior commitments and wouldn’t want to let you down if I can’t come through.”
Also remember to honor boundaries for your wellbeing in relationship with others. Holiday gatherings can sometimes bring out difficult family dynamics and old emotional wounds. Keep an attitude of positivity and fairness if difficult situations arise and bear in mind that those who create negative situations often do so as a result of their own emotional difficulties.
Having open and respectful discussion is healthy and good, but it requires the right time and place and it is not your responsibility to ensure someone else’s happiness. If the situation becomes too difficult for you emotionally or even abusive, honor your own boundaries by leaving.
Rest, Recharge and Remain Focused on Your Health
Remember the tip above about scheduling errands into your calendar? Do the same for yourself. Actively schedule “me time” into your calendar at least once per week. It could be as simple as a long, hot bath with soft music at the end of the day or as involved as an afternoon doing a fun, new activity. What’s important is that you have dedicated time to take the focus off of the outside world and shift it inward, toward your own needs. This will allow you to clear your mind and renew your energy.
You also want to be careful not to let healthy habits fall by the wayside by the holidays. Keep up your regular exercise routine, don’t indulge in too much unhealthy food or alcohol and get the sleep you need. All of these things are natural stress reducers, not to mention the many other critical health benefits that they provide.
Acknowledge When You Need Help and Reach Out For It
Sometimes even with all of these measures in place, you may find yourself still struggling. Don’t hesitate to reach out to family or friends to talk about it; chances are very good that they will be able to relate and offer a sympathetic ear to listen as well as a shoulder to lean on.
If even that doesn’t help, talk to your doctor or seek out a mental health professional. There may be bigger issues than you can handle alone, or you may be suffering from a clinical condition that requires treatment. Either way, don’t let yourself suffer – get the care you need to savor all of life’s joys, at the holidays and every day.
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