The holiday season can be rough. Whether it’s financial hardships, the recent or not so recent loss of a loved one through death or estrangement, conflict, or any other trying situation, even the biggest holiday enthusiasts can find themselves struggling. This struggle often manifests as depression or anxiety (or both and all they entail), which then leads us to coping in very unhealthy ways such as overeating, inactivity/withdrawal, or substance abuse, and ultimately sets us way back in time for our “New Year, New Me” Resolutions—and unfortunately that’s best case scenario.
The key to navigating this time is having a plan to both be able to identify when you’re feeling less than stellar and to take steps to feel better.
*Set limits. Whether it’s the simple stuff like sweets, wine, or some other delicious indulgence or the heavier stuff like spending time with relatives who don’t get along, set your limits/boundaries and stick to them. Your box of cookies will last longer as well as your fuse!
*Have a self care list available to replace an unhealthy reaction with a healthy one. For example, to go back to our cookie reference, instead of reaching for the box of cookies, maybe pick up a good book, call a friend, put on some good music, or take a jog around the neighborhood. We highly recommend bubble baths on that list too!
*Make new traditions. This is a good place to add in some of those self care items too! Carrying on traditions can be insanely painful under certain circumstances, and we find ourselves fighting guilt for not carrying them out. There isn’t a rule against making new ones though or tweaking old ones by putting a new spin on them. Always remember the goals behind traditions—bonding, expressing creativity, etc.—and know that if you’re achieving the goal, it doesn’t necessarily matter how EXACTLY you get there.
*Keep in touch with your friends. It can be tempting to withdraw when you’re feeling emotionally charged on top of the stress you find yourself dealing with, but it’s important to remember that your friends are your friends for a reason, and they can often help you feel better if you let them. On the flip side, they might need a friend in the moment too.
If you find yourself struggling beyond our short list, please don’t be afraid to get professional help. Counseling has been life changingly amazing for many of us. For more urgent needs, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7 free and confidential support for people in distress as well as prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones. The number is 1-800-273-8255.