Tips to prevent holiday stress and depression
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.
- Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the Christmas season.
- Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
- Be realistic. The Christmas 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. For example, if your adult children can’t come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos.
- Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
- 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.
Try these alternatives:
o Donate to a charity in someone’s name. Catholic Charities, Cathedral Kitchen, St. Vincent De Paul
o Give homemade gifts. Pictures in a decorated box, Family history and stories written down. Coupons for babysitting or a special trip to make memories which will last longer than most store
o Start a family gift exchange. Kids buying for kids and adults for adults so everyone is included.
- Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That’ll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. Leftovers that will go to waste and make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.
- Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
- Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt making you feel drained physically and grumpy emotionally.
Try these suggestions:
o Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks. If you want to prevent illness over Christmas staying healthy and hydrated try to reduce the refined sugar and alcohol.
o Make sure you have a pocket size hand sanitizer to prevent the spread of germs. If you are feeling sick stay home and take care of yourself first. This will be a gift to yourself and anyone else you may infect!
o Get plenty of sleep. Sleep depravation depresses the immune system and makes you mentally foggy.
o Incorporate regular physical activity into each day. Walk around the neighborhood to see the lights instead of driving! Do an extra lap around the Mall.
- 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. Saying the Rosary, stopping into Church to make a visit or doing some spiritual reading.
Some options may include:
o Taking a walk at night and stargazing, visit the outdoor Nativities in your area
o Listening to soothing music – There are usually Christmas concerts and shows in the local churches.
o Getting a massage, new hairdo or a mani-pedi as a treat to yourself.
o Reading a book. There are many devotionals for Advent to help prepare our Hearts and homes for the Christ Child.
- Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.