The holiday season represents a time of great joy and celebration, but the packed schedule, onslaught of relatives and ambush of unhealthy food options often add stress. This is especially true for those who suffer from anxiety, depression or sensory processing issues, but I’m sure most of us would say the holidays come with some challenges.
Maybe relatives are staying in your home and you’re going to the store for the third time for toilet paper. Maybe your regimented schedule is being interrupted because the kids are out of school and now there is no time for exercise. Maybe the oven has suddenly decided to die, just in time for that big holiday meal you were supposed to make. You get the idea. There is plenty of room for stress.
Here are a few ways to help you cope and make the holidays as carefree as possible.
1. Recognize your emotions and mood
This is a big one. Are you aware of how often you are secretly counseling yourself “don’t let it get to you” or “don’t freak out”? It’s not wrong to try to stay calm, but often we’re quick to bulldoze over our feelings without acknowledging where they stem from.
While it is disappointing that your favorite dish was dropped and shattered, your frustration may actually be coming from the sting of your mother-in-law’s off-handed comment. Acknowledging the root of your feelings will help prevent you from projecting your anger on other issues. This will also make the small things easier to accept.
2. Recognize the part diet plays
What if large multi-day family get-togethers only included healthy foods?
The classic cold or stomach bug wouldn’t get passed around so easily. The kids’ emotions and energy levels may not be as volatile. The extra weight, accompanied by self-loathing and well-intentioned New Years resolutions, might stay away for once.
That might sound dreamy, but the only diet you can control is your own. Try opting for healthier options when you have a chance. Enjoy an extra helping of salad and veggies instead of fudge and pie. By not embracing every opportunity to eat sugary treats, you’re doing yourself a favor.
3. Get some exercise
This tip goes hand-in-hand with the last one. However, getting exercise is especially important if you regularly workout already. Exercise improves mood, energy level and self-esteem. After a few days away from the gym, you may start to feel restless, as well as fatigued, and moody. Scaling back your normal workouts may help you still get exercise without missing family time. You can also find creative ways to include the family by going for a walk or hike together.
4. Create a semblance of structure
If you are with a big group, it may help to establish expectations. Find out what kind of activities and experiences everyone expects, then create a flexible schedule. More activities can be enjoyed with a little planning.
This can also help when the family wants to go out to eat. Knowing ahead of time where people already had in mind (and what restaurants can accommodate your group’s size) will minimize tension and time spent deliberating.
5. Communicate how you’re feeling or what you need (rather than withdrawing)
It’s okay to need some time alone. However, don’t wait until you’re at your wits end. Let your family know that you need an hour of downtime or opt out of an activity. Communicate that you are not upset. You just need some quiet time.
This may be a good opportunity to journal, read a book or even get some exercise in.
The holiday season can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a massive headache. Don’t forget that when you invest in yourself you have more to give to others! For more helpful information, check out my blogs or find me on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.