November is here….Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Chanukah are right around the corner. While the holidays are a time of year that many people look forward to, it can also cause feelings of overwhelming stress, anxiety, or loneliness. Here’s some advice on how to cope when warm blankets, hot chocolate, and curling up with a good book just isn’t enough to get you through it.
1. Accept that life is stressful, particularly around the holidays. Instead of viewing it as an overwhelming personal attack on you realize that it’s a “normal” part of living. Try to take the pressure off of yourself, laugh, and make time to do some things alone.
2. If you won’t be with your family during the holidays, try to schedule some time with friends. If that isn’t possible consider devoting your time to a charity, shelter, or soup kitchen. The holidays are a good time to remember and support those in need. Giving back to others can feel very satisfying.
3. If you have recently lost a loved one be patient and gentle with yourself. Be selfish (it’s not always a negative trait). If attending holiday gatherings are upsetting to you, don’t go. Reach out to a friend if you feel alone. Make room for your sadness and grief if that is what you are feeling. Some people find it helpful to create a new ritual to remember their loved one, such as writing a letter to them or making a donation to a charity in their name.
4. Pace yourself with shopping, planning, and decorating. Let go of the need to be perfect and to completely control what’s going to happen. Let in a little flexibility and unpredictability too.
5. Pause to be grateful for all the good things that you do have in your life. Take inventory of all the things you have to be thankful for.
6. If travel is stressful, offer to be the host. If hosting is stressful, try to have the gathering at someone else’s house. Try to take turns with other family members when hosting Thanksgiving and then Christmas and/or Chanukah.
7. Expect some family conflict. When I ask people to tell me about their family interactions during the holidays, 75% of them respond by telling me that their family drives them crazy. Of course they do, all families drive each other crazy, but which “brand” of crazy is yours? Craziness is a normal part of family life, and some families have higher levels of conflict and problems than others. You can’t avoid this, particularly during the holidays when you are spending a lot of time together, but you can try to anticipate potential land-mines and avoid them. Think about what might happen and how you will respond before you get to the gathering. If you know certain topics are sensitive or off-limits, try to divert the conversation.
8. Set boundaries and limits for yourself and others. Try not to take on too much or demand too much of your family either.
9. Have fun, reflect, and enjoy your loved ones.