This time of year is often considered joyous and even the “most wonderful”. You may feel added pressure to be happy and merry. The reality is, even the most spirited among us can experience feelings of sadness, anxiety, loneliness, disappointment, and regret. In a 2015 Healthline survey, over 60 percent of respondents described their stress level as “very” or “somewhat” elevated during the holiday season.
These feelings can intensify by engaging in unhelpful behaviors such as excessive eating, alcohol consumption or spending. Many people place expectations on themselves to achieve the “perfect” home or family life, and then feel inadequate, comparing themselves to unrealistic images on TV or social media.
While there is no shortage of holiday advice, here are a few strategies you may find particularly useful:
- Volunteer with those in need. Giving back can be a reminder to focus on all you do have. Spending time helping others, even in small ways, can help foster meaning and purpose. It can also help you become more aware of the needs of others, rather than fixating on your own worries
- Focus on hobbies and activities that give you pleasure. Try reading, baking, listening to inspirational songs, whatever brings you joy. Set limits on extra commitments that lead to feeling overloaded or depleted. Prioritize your to-do list to focus on what is most important. Add yourself to the list. Self-care is not selfish; it’s a necessity, especially during these hectic times.
- Spend time with loved ones. Surround yourself with people who are exhibiting the qualities you aspire to, rather than those who may be down or sluggish. You may be inclined to withdraw, but this can increase loneliness and isolation. If you are struggling to connect, or face anxiety, depression, grief or trauma, join one of our support groups.
- Stick with regular routines and health habits. Now is not the time to skimp on sleep, balanced meals, or exercise. A brisk walk in the sunshine or a few yoga poses can offer benefits that go well beyond fitness. Boost your mood, fight weight gain, improve energy, and reduce stress. Every bit counts- dance in your living room, clean the house, walk around when you’re on a phone call.
- Be highly selective. Serve or bring along an upgraded version of your favorite holiday recipe. Enjoy it without guilt. Avoid both deprivation and regret, by mindfully savoring something you really love. Rather than thinking of the holiday season as an excuse to indulge, focus on aspects you appreciate such as unique decorations, uplifting music or a cozy fire.
- Adopt a mantra. Try “let go”, “I am at peace” or “breathe”. Spend a few minutes in stillness to reset your energy. Shift your mindset to maintain more realistic expectations. Recognize and allow the presence of sadness, resentment, disappointment or anxiety without judgment. Know these feelings are not permanent and that you have the resources you need to overcome them.
The suggestions in this article are for educational purposes only and not a substitute for professional assistance from a licensed mental health professional.
For additional support during this, or any time of year, call Specialized Therapy Associates at (201)-488-6678.
Looking to jumpstart your intentions for the New Year? Ask about our 10-week Total Mind-Body Health Transformation series starting in January 2019.
By Anna Sandbank, LCSW, Director of Integrative Mind-Body Health, Specialized Therapy Associates, Fx Med Centers, Xceptional You