he holiday are here — a time of joy, love and laughter! However, for many this is a time of stress, loneliness and sadness. Obligations to friends and family, excessive demands on your time, financial strains and, of course, the pandemic can all feel overwhelming.
Not to despair! There are tried-and-true coping mechanisms developed by the mental health profession for embracing the season while still minimizing stress, according to George Livengood, licensed marriage and family therapist and vice president of Discovery Mood & Anxiety program, a division of Discovery Behavioral Health, Inc.
“You can’t change the holidays, but you can learn how to successfully cope with them. It’s a matter of being mindful of the difference between fun and over-indulgence, and spontaneity and setting reasonable boundaries,” says Livengood.
Here are his six timely tips to navigate the holidays and protect your mental health.
- Learn to say no. There can be many opportunities to party, and it can be exhausting. You don’t have to go to feel pressured and go to all of the celebrations. Pick the ones that are important to you and have fun. Or, stay home and put your feet up. You decide.
- For some, there may not seem like there are any invitations and it can feel very lonely. Go online. I think you will be surprised how many organizations plan activities for the community to celebrate the holidays. If you are open to it, maybe you can make a new friend.
- Anticipate discomfort and create a plan. For those who struggle with alcohol or substances, the holidays are filled with toasts to good health and cheer. Speak to the host about non-alcoholic options or bring your own. If it is traditional to bring a bottle of champagne, why not sparkling cider?
- Don’t argue politics with your uncle (or anyone). You are not going to change their mind. It will raise your blood pressure and ruin your holiday cheer. Instead, set a boundary, excuse yourself if necessary and go talk to someone else about the best holiday movies-Christmas Vacation and Elf according to one whole side of my family.
- This year many families will be missing loved ones. After almost two years of masks and social distancing, the pandemic has taught us how important human connection is to maintain our spirit and sanity. Don’t wait for another day. Hug those close to you and take the opportunity to tell them how you feel.
- Lastly, volunteer. Holidays are a time of giving, but it doesn’t have to be about money. Make someone’s holiday by showing up at a food bank, shelter, hospital, retirement community, animal shelter, etc. You are the best gift of all.
Don’t suffer from stress during the holidays, if you need help reach out to a professional.