The holidays can be one of the most stressful times of the year. Spending money to purchase gifts, choosing the right thing for the people in your life, preparing the meals, attending parties, hosting people in your home, overeating, managing family dynamics, and boundaries… One big, anxiety hot mess!
What if you could lessen the stress and get to the other side of the end-of-the-year festivities in one healthy piece? You can. In our Evanston and Chicago therapy practice, we are here to help you thrive in this season.
What would you like to experience this holiday season?
Anxiety is not on the menu, but stress might be.
Dr. Kerry Ressler, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, says you should rethink stress.
A life without stress is not only impossible but also would likely be pretty uninteresting — in fact, a certain degree of stress is helpful for growth.” So, rather than striving for no stress strive for healthier responses to stress.
In short, one way to have a healthier response to the inevitable holiday stress is to do a little reflection. When the gifts are all unwrapped and the last slice of pie is eaten, what do you want to remember most? The earlier in the season you ask yourself this question, the better.
Then, ask yourself some hard questions. Just because you have always celebrated your holiday a certain way, do you need to repeat those traditions this year? Why do you feel the need to plan, pay for, prepare an entire holiday meal or put up and decorate a twelve-foot tree by yourself when family and friends are happy to help?
If you are able, create some quiet space in your schedule and mind to hear what you are feeling. Could you share some of the responsibilities and let go of the control? Can your partner, friend, in-laws, or nanny help you check things off your to-do list?
Counseling Self-care Tip #1: Reach out for help
If you need help managing the anxiety or the grief and depression that the holidays can sometimes trigger, reach out to us. In our Evanston and Chicago counseling area offices, we can help you navigate this storm of emotions. If you lost a loved one in the last year or had a divorce, these losses will most likely sting at this time of the year. With therapy we can help you process your emotions and walk through the grief.
Counseling Self-care Tip #2: Say No
Even though letting this word pass our lips is hard, you can do it. Remember, “No.” is a complete sentence. Other options: No, thank you. Or, We won’t be able to come. Have a great time.
At this time of year, you will want to protect your availability, space and energy by saying no.
No, I cannot work overtime.
No, I’m sorry I don’t have room for you to stay at our home.
No, I won’t be able to make a costume for the school holiday performance.
No thank you to another helping of your aunt’s stuffing, grandmother’s green beans, or your mother-in-law’s latkes.
No. End of the discussion, without feeling the need to explain. Saying no can be so tricky you might want to practice ahead of time! If you have a friend or family member who doesn’t seem to hear your ‘No,” reach out and chat with us. At Evanston Counseling, we specialize in helping you have thriving, healthy relationships.
Counseling Self-care Tip #3: Keep your normal schedule
This season you may have visitors in your home or out-of-town activities. It is hard to hang on to your usual routines. These changes to our schedule can heighten our anxiety. So try to follow your eating meals, exercising, and sleeping routines.
If you travel over the holiday season, maintaining your normal rhythm can challenge your resolve to keep the status quo.
Food is at the core of the celebrations this time of year. You may see it as your one time to indulge. Yet, remember the healthiest habits with drinking alcohol and eating sugar.
If you can accomplish this feat, the anxiety of the season will not throw you off course as much.
Counseling Self-care Tip #4: Have a game plan
Even though you may think you are too busy to plan, you could save yourself a lot of stress by having a plan. So, do what you can to carve out some time to outline who will be doing what this season. Deciding when you/your partner might shop, cook, clean, travel, or bake will help you feel more organized and grounded during.
Likewise, a money game plan will save you headaches, too. Create a budget of how much you will spend on gifts, decorations, or meals. Then, the challenging part comes: sticking to the guidelines you set up.
Here is a link for a free holiday planner. The planner will help you answer the deep reflections questions, set up a budget, create a gift list, a menu and baking planner, and a grocery shopping list. Whew!
When you set aside time for the activities which are most important to you, your anxiety eases. You have the assurance that the essential things will get done. Planning allows you the time to be more thoughtful about where you will go, who you will allow into your space, what you will give and how much you will spend.
Counseling Self-care Tip #5: Work smarter, not harder
The pandemic has taught us some helpful lessons. Grocery delivery or curbside service can be a huge timesaver. Order gifts online and have them shipped directly to the recipients; you won’t have to wait in line at the post office.
Indeed if you stay out of the mall and grocery store, you won’t be in the thick of the movement, people, and noise that holiday shopping can sometimes bring.
Counseling Self-care Tip #6: Take an Adult Time-Out
You may find that you need a reset and want to lower anxiety over the holidays. Find every opportunity to steal away for 15 minutes. Use this precious quarter of an hour to calm your mind and rebalance your emotions.
These options might include:
Taking a walk at night and stargazing.
Listening to soothing music.
Getting a massage.
Reading a book.
Counting your blessings.
Hiding in the bathroom for a few deep breaths.
As a result of having this time alone, you may create enough energy to push forward.
The holiday season doesn’t have to leave you in a ball of nerves. Reach out to us to book a complimentary consult to see how therapy can help you beat the stress. We would love to help ease your holiday anxiety. More peace is on the other side.