After talking to my highly disciplined and proactive mother yesterday, I realized that the holidays are fast approaching and I am unprepared as usual. She on the other hand has completed all of her shopping and much of her holiday to do list. At times like this, I am reminded that I did not get my mother’s “proactive” gene. I am organized but at the same time a procrastinator. I tend to excuse my delay in completing tasks ahead of time by making myself believe that I work much better under pressure. Really, procrastinating just causes me more pressure, stress, and potential for mayhem than is actually needed. Still, I do not change. I am fully aware that my procrastination leads to extra holiday stress. Which leads me to the topic of self-care during the holidays.
Writing about self-care during the holidays is just as much a reminder to me as it is to anyone else reading this blog. The main point I want to make is to remember to take care of your self during the holidays. Minimizing and managing stress is very helpful but is often more of a challenge at this time of year than usual.
Let’s face it-this season is stressful for anyone who celebrates a holiday. It can be a festive and fun time spent with family and friends. At the same time, it can be depressive, lonely, and sad. All of which can leave one feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. There are many factors that can cause holiday stress such as financial stress, seasonal affective disorder, unrealistic expectations, separation from loved ones, and changes in daily routines to name a few.
Usually we have a vision about how the holidays should be. Then there is the reality of how the holidays actually turn out. The two are usually not the same. The reality is not always as appealing as the “plan.” However, sometimes the reality can be even better.
When holiday plans take a nosedive, for instance when all flights are cancelled due to a major snowstorm and there are no rental cars to be found, the stress can be overwhelming. Thankfully, there are ways to help one get through this difficult time.
First breathe and try to find a silver lining. Maybe the tickets can be used to travel at a less hectic time of year or used for a much, needed vacation. Then try to find some time to be removed from the stress by listening to music, taking a short walk, seeing a movie, or cooking a favorite holiday dish.
Acknowledge how you are feeling. Maybe a good cry is needed to relieve the sadness of not being able to make it to see loved ones. The holiday season is often idealized and commercialization. Sometimes, too much pressure is placed on us to have only positive feelings of happiness, excitement, and fun during the holidays. Remember that it is okay and normal to feel sad, tired, and lonely.
When possible try to spend time with people whom you enjoy being around and are supportive, especially if you cannot be with your loved ones or are missing someone special. If you have a cancelled flight find out whom else is in town and try to meet up with them. Maybe this could turn into “in case of bad weather” back up holiday plan for now and in the future.
In any event, it is important to plan ahead so that preparations can be made for managed expectations. This way you can try to set realistic goals, schedules, and reduce disappointment. Have a budget. Know what your spending limits are in advance so that you spend within your means and can avoid the post-holiday bank statement shock. Continue to eat healthy, exercise, and sleep. Don’t over commit. Attend parties or gatherings that you will have the time to enjoy.
Lastly and most importantly, if you are feeling overwhelmed and cannot handle the stress or you feelings on your own talk to your doctor or find a mental health professional to help you through this challenging time.
Remember to take care of YOU first. You need to be healthy in order to be helpful, supportive of others, and to actually have a chance of enjoying the holidays that you choose to celebrate.
http://www.medicinenet.com/holiday_depression_and_stress/article.htm Link from 11/14/11. Holiday depression and Stress Medical. Author: Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD.
Link from 11/14/11. Coping With Depression During the Holidays When Sadness Clashes with Celebration.
Link from 11/4/11. Shaking the Holiday Blues Away. Author: Divorce Poison. Posted on11/14/11.
Link from 11/14/11. True or False: Depression and Suicide Rates Rise During the Holiday Season. Author: Jacquelyn Rudis.
Link from 11/14/11. Stress, depression and the holidays: Tips for coping.
Author: Mayo Clinic Staff.