The holidays are among us and with that, we experience many mixed emotions. These may include joy, happiness, and excitement as you see the decorations and start to see family and friends. On the other hand, the holidays may also be a source of increased stress and reminders of grief and loss for those of us who have lost a family member in the past few years.
Here are some tips to manage the stress you may experience during the holiday season:
1. Acknowledge your feelings- Take time to reflect on what your body is facing and identify the feelings you may be experiencing. Examine the intensity of your feelings using a scale of 0 to 10, then take a few deep breaths by inhaling for five seconds, breathing out for five seconds, and holding your breath in between for another five seconds. This will help you manage and release feelings in the moment and throughout the day.
2. Plan ahead whenever possible- Use a calendar and to-do list note on your cell phone or notepad to schedule holiday parties, gatherings, work events, or other family activities. Also include holiday shopping lists to assist you in remembering what needs to be purchased and when. A little planning ahead will save you time and money when going from one activity to the next.
3. Set boundaries- It is okay to say “No” to others. Saying yes to all activities and all our loved ones will only leave us feeling resentful, stressed, and overwhelmed. Balancing your time and taking breaks will help you enjoy your time more mindfully through this holiday season.
4. Ask and accept help- Along with setting boundaries, it is okay to also ask others to help or be willing to accept the help being offered by others. These may include assigning home tasks to our partners such as a house cleaning task, running an errand for us, helping with our children’s homework, or making a meal. A bit of assistance can go a long way and allow you to take time to take a breather.
5. Maintain healthy habits- It’s important to ensure we are sleeping well, eating healthy foods and snacks, and keeping our body physically active. Small amounts of exercise will help manage our stress and most importantly release it from our bodies. Remember our bodies keep the score and a well-oiled machine works better.
6. Take needed breaks- Schedule needed breaks throughout the day. This can be broken down into small amounts of time. Allow yourself to take some time to take deep breaths and focus on the moment to take care of your body’s needs to drink water and stretch.
7. Use Gratitude- Finally, take time to think about what you are grateful for. Expressing gratitude also helps manage any stressful thoughts you may experience during the holiday season. Gratitude helps us to focus again on this time of year when we are surrounded by loved ones. You may start with the following phrase:
“I am grateful for . . . “.
Feel free to take one or some of the suggestions above. Every day will bring new needs, and these are just tools that may be useful and helpful when we are consistent and aware of our needs. Learning to recognize possible triggers of financial and personal stress will help to manage it before it gets too hard to deal with. Additionally, these tools will help to determine if it’s time to consider getting professional care. El Centro de Amistad is ready to help and give the additional care you may be looking for. As always, we hope you have a wonderful holiday season surrounded by your loved ones.
– Written by Maria Williams, MA LMFT
If you or someone you know is interested in speaking to a therapist, give us a call at (818) 898-0223 to schedule an appointment with our intake department.