By Doug Morin
Executive Director of CV Volunteers In Medicine
The holiday season often brings stress and depression brought on from a lot of demands — parties, shopping, baking, cleaning and entertaining, and more, but here are some practical tips to help you minimize the stress that accompanies the hustle and bustle.
-Keep your expectations modest. Don’t get hung up on what the holidays are supposed to be like and how you’re supposed to feel. Don’t worry about “holiday spirit,” just take the holidays as they come.
-Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones.
-Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts.
– When stress is at its peak, it’s hard to stop and regroup. Try to prevent stress and depression in the first place, especially if the holidays have taken an emotional toll on you in the past.
-Hike your mood with sunlight. It stimulates the production of feel-good serotonin and also helps relieve seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which impacts millions of Americans every year
Does the prospect of the usual routine fill you with holiday dread rather than holiday joy this year? If so, don’t surrender to it. Try something different. Have Thanksgiving at a restaurant. Spend Christmas day at the movie theater. Get your family to agree to skip gifts and instead donate the money to a charity.
-Lean on your support system. If you’ve been depressed, you need a network of close friends and family to turn to when things get tough, so during the holidays, take time to get together with your support team regularly — or at least keep in touch by phone to keep yourself centered.
-Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks.
-Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.
-If you know there are going to be conflicts, prepare a neutral response, such as, “Let’s talk about that another time,” Then escape to the restroom, offer to help in the kitchen, or hang out with the kids.
-Cut back on the alcohol consumption. Yes, it might help you get over anxiety, but abusing it will make you feel worse.
And keep smiling – it’ll be over soon!