As the holiday season begins to sneak up upon us, so too does the inevitability of a dizzying array of demands. Parties, shopping, baking, cleaning and entertaining arrive on our doorsteps and can trigger stress and depression, derail your holidays and hurt your health. When stress is at its peak, it’s hard to take the time 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. With practical tips, you can minimize the stress that accompanies the holidays, and you may even enjoy the holidays more than you thought you could! So let the preparations begin, today.
Preventing holiday stress and depression
Here are 10 tips that the Canadian Mental Health Association recommends to help prevent holiday stress and depression:
1. Acknowledge your feelings: If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, realise that it is 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 holiday season.
2. Reach out: If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. These events can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
3. 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. 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.
4. Set aside differences: Try to accept family 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. 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.
5. Stick to a budget: Before you begin you 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: Donate to a charity in someone’s name, give homemade gifts, or start a family gift exchange.
6. Plan ahead: Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. This will help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.
7. 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.
8. 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. Continue to get plenty of sleep and physical activity.
9. 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. Take a walk at night and stargaze. Listen to soothing music. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.
10. 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.
“Don’t allow your wounds to transform you into something you’re not” – Paulo Coelho
Make November the month where you make your mental health and happiness a priority –take the first step by attending Achieving Happiness on November 12, 2013, 12-1pm at UBC’s Vancouver Campus.
In this talk, Kostadin Kushlev, PhD student and Vanier Scholar at UBC’s Department of Psychology will explore a wide range of factors that contribute to happiness, from the obvious, such as having good relationships and good health, to the less obvious, such as the benefits of pro-social behavior and a focused mind.