Nine Tips for Handling Holiday Stress like a Pro
The holidays are upon us!
How quickly these celebrations can creep up. Some of us look forward to the holiday season all year while others of us feel dread as the season approaches. As a Licensed Professional Counselor, I have encountered a multitude of reasons that individuals may struggle during this time of year. Family conflict, the loss of a loved one, loneliness, financial stress, and painful memories are just some of the reasons that a person may experience some “holiday blues”.
If the stress of the holidays is impacting you I am here to offer you hope. There is hope for not only surviving the season but coping with the challenges that you may be facing. Here are nine tips to help you handle holidays stress like a pro:
1- Focus on your self-care
You may be asking yourself how focusing on your self-care is possible during a season that is so focused on giving to others. Let’s reframe and challenge this societal pressure a bit! Just as an airline will remind you to attach your oxygen mask to yourself before attaching it to others, we cannot give to others when we are “spread too thin”. By focusing on your self-care I encourage you to find healthy ways of coping with your feelings. Healthy coping may look different for each person. For one person, yoga may be helpful, while another person just needs time to talk to a friend. Relaxation skills such as deep breathing, progressive relaxation, or mindfulness may help you feel like you can take on your next challenge.
2- Change it up!
That’s right, change HOW you think! What we know in the counseling profession is that whatever you focus on tends to get bigger. If you’re overly focused on the negative aspects of the holiday season you will only see negative situations that will reinforce that thought. I recommend, looking for exceptions to your beliefs and challenging your thoughts. Maybe even set a goal to simply look for one positive piece of each day to help you change your perspective. What we think dictates how we feel…so make a change!
3- Be Your Own Best Friend
How would you treat a best friend or loved one that was struggling? You would offer them encouragement and support. Why not do the same for yourself? Increasing positive self-talk may just be what helps you to cope during this time. This may be something as simple as reminding yourself that this time period is temporary and that you may feel differently soon. It may even just be to coach yourself through and remind yourself to take “one day at a time”.
4- Plan ahead
Sometimes dealing with holiday stress can be as easy as just planning ahead. We are typically expected to continue to perform in our daily roles of work, family and still fit in time for celebrations or shopping. How will you do it all? By having a plan you should feel a bit more control over these temporary demands in your life.
5- Be Flexible
This makes no sense, first I tell you to plan and then I tell you to be flexible. While plans can help give you some control, not all plans are perfect or work out the way you would like. Having the ability to take a deep breath and be flexible will have you working through the demands in no time.
6- Watch your dollars
Develop and stick to a budget around the holidays. Often finances are a huge stress during the holiday season. In an age where you can buy anything with the click of a mouse, managing your money can be harder than ever. Ask yourself WHY you want to spend the extra money. Are you feeling down and are trying to make yourself feel better? Find a healthier way of coping (refer to tip #1). Are you trying to show someone you love them? Change it up (reference tip #2), overspending does not equal love.
Honor the amount you initially wanted to spend and appreciate that you upheld that promise to yourself.
7- “No” is a complete sentence!
In other words, stick to your boundaries. Set boundaries around what you are able to do and what you are unable to do this holiday season. Don’t overextend yourself to make others happy. Asking loved ones to understand and respect what you are able to do during the holidays will help you to be fully present and hopefully even find some enjoyment.
8-Do what works for you
Acknowledging your feelings during the holidays and meeting your needs is extremely important. Holidays do not have to be traditional. Thinking “outside of the box” or getting creative is perfectly acceptable. A few examples may be, coping with the loss of a loved one with a memorial on the holiday, explore a new place, or even volunteer. Choose a healthy way to be successful this season and do what works for you.
9- Seek and accept help
You do not have to be alone in your pain if you’re struggling this holiday season. If you’re feeling down or anxious, seek help. There are many professionals that have dedicated their careers to helping others. Often, it can initially be intimidating to seek help but it does not need to be. Professionals are available to help you and ease you into the therapy process. It is important to find professional help as relief may be found in treatment.
As you deal with the “hustle and bustle” around you this holiday season please remember that you are “in the driver’s seat” with your emotions. Whether you are taking one day at a time or one minute at a time; there is hope. This season of your life may change or you may change how you react to it. Using the nine tips provided may be a starting place for you in your journey to feel better.
Should you be in a place where you are ready for additional help, searching for therapy options may be your next step. Often starting by contacting your insurance company or doing an online search can help lead you to find a therapist. Most importantly, if you’re having high-risk thoughts of harming yourself or others please contact 911 or use the emergency room.
If you’re not at risk to yourself or others, an excellent therapy option is with Ieso Digital Health for online Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. To determine eligibility you can easily reach out by going to: https://register.iesohealth.com/.
-Lindsay Foster, LPC, CAC III, Therapist, Ieso Digital Health.