The holiday season is a busy time for most. There is so much to do, attend and plan, which can bring up feelings of being overwhelmed, anxious, stressed, and depressed. Maintaining mental health over the holidays can be a real challenge for individuals affected by their loved one’s mental illness or who experiencing mental illness themselves. Mental illness during the holidays can affect anyone at any age. Sometimes, these feelings are triggered by a specific event or life experiences. Thankfully, there are many strategies we can use to make the holidays go smoother for everyone – ourselves and our family members.
How to Manage Stress During the Holidays
During the holidays self-care often takes a backseat. But your health comes first. Make time to take care of yourself. The holidays can be a stressful and anxious time for the entire family. Make sure that you are eating, sleeping and enjoying the holidays as well. Maintain healthy boundaries. Take time when you need it, don’t feel guilty saying no when you need to. Do what is best for you and your family.
Here are some guidelines to ensure healthy boundaries over the holidays:
- Communicate what you want or need.
- Say “no” without guilt.
- Say “yes” because you want to, not out of obligation or to please others.
- Let go of trying to control what other people eat, drink, wear, say, or do.
- Be empowered to skip, go late, leave early, or drive your own car to holiday parties.
- Express your feelings in an assertive and respectful way.
- Take care of your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.
- Spend time with supportive people..
- Don’t make excuses for yourself or anyone else.
- Act according to your own values and beliefs.
Setting specific times for family traditions like baking special food, decorating the house, wrapping gifts or attending community celebrations, gives the everyone something to look forward to. Set realistic goals and be flexible. The holidays are about caring and respecting one another. Its better to let go of the idea of the “perfect” holiday and focus on accepting ourselves and our loved ones without judgment or criticism.
Despite good intentions, remember that the holidays rarely turn out as planned. Focus on making them a special time for you and your family. Take stock of things that are going well, or that you have done well.
Remember, it is important to take care of yourself. If you need some extra help, try affirmations such as: “I want/need … and that doesn’t make me selfish.” You are entitled to setting boundaries, having your own feelings, and not having to explain why you are saying no. And always remember that the holiday season is about hope, joy and peace.
And Happy Holidays!