The holiday season is a time when many people feel overwhelmed and stressed. This is in part because the holidays often involve an enormous amount of pressure to spend money, to be happy and cheerful, and to fit in with societal norms. However, it is important to remember that taking care of your well-being should be a priority during any time of year, including the holiday season.
Here are 16 strategies and tips for managing your well-being:
Show Kindness to Yourself
Focus on self-care if you feel stressed, overwhelmed, or anxious about the upcoming holiday season. Take a break from work, spend quality time with loved ones, or do something fun, like attending a yoga retreat or pampering yourself with a massage. If you feel like you're struggling to maintain balance throughout the week, consider scheduling one night per week where you don't check your email or respond to texts. You'll likely notice how much better you feel once you've taken care of yourself.
Focus on What You Can Control—One Thing at a Time
It may be tempting to try to do everything at once this holiday season, but if you have too many things going on, you won't be able to enjoy any of them. Instead, choose one thing to focus on daily, such as wrapping gifts, preparing for family gatherings, or decorating the house. Focusing on just one task will make you more productive and less likely to get distracted by other tasks.
Prioritize Time with Friends and Family
Connecting with friends and family during the holiday season is one of the most enjoyable times of the holidays. But if you're feeling overwhelmed by all the activities around you, prioritize time with people who bring joy to your life. Spend time with your children, parents, siblings, grandparents, nieces/nephews, and close friends. Make sure they know how special they are to you, and tell them how much you appreciate their support.
Snuggle Up with Your Pets
Pets provide unconditional love. They don't require anything from you except for your attention. They're always there when you need them and can help you relax and unwind, slowing you down so you can enjoy the holiday season. Spend time baking homemade treats for your furry friend, make or shop for a cute holiday outfit, or sit with your pet and play with them. Your mental well-being will benefit from doing this exercise regularly, and your pets will appreciate it too!
Volunteering in your community is a great way to give back to others and relieve some stress associated with the holiday season. Consider volunteering at a local soup kitchen, animal shelter, food bank, or homeless shelter. Or, if you'd prefer, volunteer at a hospital, nursing home, or hospice center. The people you contact during the holiday will be grateful for your presence.
Consume Happy News
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but 91% of stories in U.S. major media outlets are negative in tone compared to 54% of non-U.S. major sources. And when we consume this negative news, we become negative, anxious, overwhelmed, and even Grinch-like, if you will.
If you're hoping to mitigate holiday stress, avoid negative news. Instead, intentionally scroll through happy news sources. The research supports this. When good news comes in, we feel better, more positive, and uplifted.
Beware, Don't Compare
Along those same lines, we can get caught up in doom scrolling on social media. Doom scrolling leads us on a one-way road to Comparison-ville, and it's not a good place to be. Especially during the holiday season.
In this day and age, we are in a constant state of social comparison, and it's no wonder our mental state has plummeted. We are inundated with what everyone else is doing, having, and getting. Let's stop trying to keep up with the Joneses or Kardashians or anyone else for that matter.
Instead, be intentional about how you use social media, use the app limits, and monitor what accounts you are following. Shift your focus to your own goals, dreams, and desires.
We often think of priorities in list form. But when we do that, someone or something always ends up at the bottom of the list.
Instead, think about priorities as columns or, better yet, mugs of hot cocoa. Each mug needs to be poured into with the intention of remaining full. With that said, we need to start adding our own name to one of those mugs of chocolatey goodness--intentionally pouring into it with love, hobbies, play, and other ways to keep our hearts full.
Sit with Uncomfortable Feelings Around Holiday Experiences
When difficult emotions arise, it's important to be aware of them and what they might be telling you. Acknowledging these feelings can help them to dissipate and provide valuable information for moving forward. Being emotionally aware leads to relief and a sense of knowing what needs to be done next.
Say "No" When Necessary
It can be easy to feel obligated to do things we're not necessarily interested in during the holidays. It's important to set firm boundaries and to be clear about expectations, ensuring that everyone is on the same page. This will help alleviate any potential confusion or feelings of guilt. Lastly, it's important to remember that it's ok to take a break from traditional activities and instead focus on what we love doing, whether it be reading, hiking, etc. Taking time for self-care.
Go Outside and Get Sunshine
As the days grow shorter, getting our daily dose of sunlight becomes more important. Sunshine provides us with vitamin D and other crucial chemicals for our bodies and helps regulate our sleep cycles to be more wakeful during the day and restful in the evening. Nature also provides us with fresh air and the ability to exit any unpleasant situations while providing a safe space to ground into our bodies and stay present in our day-to-day activities.
Move Your Body
It is easy this time of year to want to stay inside and relax. However, movement is necessary to process emotions, release toxins via sweat, and keep endorphins high. Finding a movement practice that is enjoyable and convenient will increase the likelihood of follow-through. Make it a priority to schedule your movement sessions and stick to them.
Respond Instead of Reacting
You will experience a different outcome by communicating differently.
To behave differently in a situation or to a certain person, we must want to do so first. We can't rely on our old behaviour patterns, as these have been ingrained over time. To change our behaviour, we need to be aware of what triggers us and pause before reacting. This sounds simple but not easy - I recommend trying it throughout your day-to-day life so that it's easier when you're in a potentially stressful situation.
Here are a few steps to help you get started rewiring your habitual reactions and improve your chances of responding with emotional intelligence:
Become aware of your triggers.
Get clear on why it triggers you personally—taking ownership of your emotions.
Mentally rehearse how you would like to respond and the thoughts and emotions you desire to think and feel.
Saying “No” with Kindness and Being Clear on Our Boundaries
Take some time to reflect on what your boundaries are. What’s come up in the past that’s made you feel uncomfortable or that has compromised your boundaries? For example: having one last drink with friends on a night out when you think you’ve had enough but don’t want to ‘ruin’ the party.
Prepare your response by having some phrases you’ve thought of upfront and practice saying them to friends and family you trust to get comfortable using them. Having go-to responses to use in difficult or stressful situations can help you stay calm and collected. When you know you have a reliable way to deal with challenging moments, you can face them head-on with less fear or hesitation.
We can reduce our resentment towards family members or challenging friends by remembering that people are just doing their best with the awareness and tools they have at any given moment. We all live our life through our unique lens, which is primarily an autopilot function.
We can also add an intention to hold others in positive regard. Even if you judge their behaviour as “bad,” know that we’ll never truly know what another person is feeling or going through - knowing that their reactions to life are their own and it’s really only personal when we take it personally.
In moments of real difficulty, ask yourself, “Is love available, even now?”
About the authors:
Colleen Wenner Currently, Colleen serves as the Clinical Director for her group practice. She is dedicated to building the best trauma-informed, trauma-competent group therapy practice in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. She has expanded her services and now offers clinical supervision and EMDR consulting. Colleen wants to use her training and experience to help mold the next generation of trauma counselors so they can provide high-quality services for the residents of Fort Walton Beach and its surrounding communities. See full bio.
Lindsey Konchar Lindsey Konchar, MSW, LGSW is a multi-passionate mama, author of I Got 99 Coping Skills and Being a B*tch Ain't One, and owner of copingwithlindsey.com. Her mission is to help people cope with life's difficulties in a fun and freeing way!
Leah Ehinger Leah is a mind-body specialist working as a somatic therapist and trauma-informed personal trainer, and yoga teacher. Leah studied Kinesiology and Clinical Social Work for a well-rounded knowledge of the mind and body in addition to continued studies of somatics and vagus nerve theory. She is passionate about helping people experiencing challenging physical symptoms to learn body awareness and emotional literacy to live a life of ease.
Kate Greenslade is a certified mindfulness coach who helps people live the lives they truly want by teaching them how to let go of unhelpful thinking patterns, self-sabotage, and past experienced that are holding them back. Her approach utilizes a unique blend of mindfulness and meditation, transformative coaching techniques, the latest neuroscience, and positive psychology. Kate’s life experiences have motivated her to help others with the same struggles she has experienced. Through her personal work, she has changed careers at 40, alleviated tinnitus, moved to another country, changed her relationship with her father and found her sister. She is currently working on a mindfulness-based program to support people through surgery and enjoys hosting mindfulness retreats in her hometown of Denia in Spain.