December brings with it a chance to spend time with family and other loved ones, but the lead-up to the holidays and even the holidays themselves can also be a source of great stress for many people.
Besides being busy at work at the end of the year, most people have to contend with Christmas parties, preparing for the holidays with their families, buying gifts, dealing with bad traffic – and perhaps money problems. Some people also are lonely during the holidays.
If you are feeling frazzled, depressed and out of sorts, you’re not alone. Most of us have plenty of obligations during this time of year that are pulling us in different directions.
Acknowledging that the holidays can take a mental toll on so many people, the Mayo Clinic and the Priory Group of Hospitals in the U.K. have the following advice:
Give yourself some ‘me time’ – When you are being pulled in many directions, it’s healthy to take some time to yourself and not think about anything in particular – and just “be.” You can go for a walk, head to a cozy coffee shop, find a comfortable spot and listen to music or read a book. This may not always be easy to fit in, but if you can do it for just 30 minutes, it can make a big difference in your mental health and disposition.
- Take a walk at night and gaze at the stars.
- Listen to soothing music.
- Get a massage.
Plan ahead – Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list based on the ingredients lists and whatever you are missing in the pantry. If you are hosting a Christmas dinner, enlist the help of other family members to defray the work and also have everyone bring a dish or two so you aren’t stuck cooking for everyone.
Put aside differences – Don’t revive old arguments and stay clear of issues that are trigger points for rows and disagreements. If you don’t agree on politics, leave it at the front door and promise each other not to talk about it. If someone does get upset about something, be understanding and see how you can help them feel better. They could also be stressed from the holidays.
Keep up healthy habits – Don’t abandon the healthy habits you stick to all year. Just because there is all this good food and drink around during this time of year, resist the urge to go hog wild and eat as much as you want. That will rebound on you and add to your stress or guilt.
Instead, try the following:
- Before going to a holiday party, eat a healthy and filling snack so you don’t eat as much fatty and sweet foods at the soiree.
- Try to avoid overindulgence. Eat a few things that you want to eat, but avoid going back for seconds.
- Get plenty of sleep. Stick to your regular sleep schedule.
- Continue exercising. Everyone is busy this time of year so if you can at least fit in a good long walk once a day, that will get your body moving and your blood pumping.
Get involved in your community – Many people are alone at Christmas time, and it’s especially hard if you’ve lost someone in the past year. Fortunately, there are many community organizations that offer support during the holidays. You can also volunteer for an organization that works with the less fortunate.
Helping those in need can fill you with an inner piece that is hard to replicate. You can go to bed with a smile on your face.