“I do not know how I am supposed to make it through the Holidays”, “I have four family functions that I have to fake it through”, “This is the first Christmas without her being around”, “I am not going to be able to face my family”. The Holidays can be a joyous time, but can also bring up the heartache that you are currently facing. The Holidays are a time of year when everyone in the family comes together. There is a lot of pressure during the holidays to be happy and fun-loving. However, you may have lost loved ones, have to face the person who abused you at a young age, have nowhere to go for the holidays or have unresolved conflict with members of the family. You may feel your family will ask questions about your marriage that you are not ready to answer. You may not be ready to see everyone with their family intact because you are missing your loved one who has passed or your children are with their dad’s side of the family this time around. The Holidays can bring on stress, depression, anxiety, and isolation. Following these tips can help alleviate the holiday blues:
- Give yourself grace. You do not have to push your emotions to the side just becausse it is the holidays. If you have lossed a loved one, are feeling lonely after a breakup, or are experiencing guilt from a seperation/divorce it is okay to experience emotions. Having the holidays without a loved one can be very difficult. Knowing the stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance may be helpful in navigating your feelings.
- Express your feelings. Do not be afraid to express the emotions that you are feeling inside. Having a support system is a key factor in alleviating anxiety and depression. Many times you may feel like talking about what you are feeling may be burdensome to others so you choose to withhold your feelings. However, letting unexpressed feelings build up can lead to anxiety, isolation, and depression. Others in the family may feel the same as you and may be able to help you talk your feelings through or help you have a sense of comradery and normalcy.
- Set firm boundaries. It is okay to say no and outline what is and is not acceptable for you. You may have mutiple functions that you are invited to and feel obligated to attend. If you feel stretched thin over the holiday it is okay to not attend or to attend for a specific amount of time that you feel is acceptable. It is okay to have an exit strategy. If you feel overwhelmed you can excuse yourself and go for a walk or take some time to regather yourself. You do not have to feel that you have to “keep it together”. Wearing a mask only makes you feel more isolated and depressed.
- Keep up your self-care routine. It can be easy to get so wrapped up in the busyness of the holidays that you forget about prioritizing yourself. Maintaining adequate self-care and coping skills will be the main ways to decrease anxiety and depression. You can try deep breathing, yoga/excercise, mindfulness, getting creative, and journaling/affirmations.
- Notice your triggers. Know what makes you upset during family gatherings or specific thoughts that you have going into the holidays. Change your thoughts to become more positive to break out of negative thought patterns and feedback loops that heighten stress. Try a thankfulness journal to help breed more positivity.
- Seek out the help of a professional if you feel unable to manage. If you feel overly anxious and stressed about the holidays or having to interact a counselor can help you navigate these feelings. Coundelors you are unable to process what is going on it is okay to seek out the help from a counselor. Counselors can help you process through your triggers and give you coping skills to alleviate the stresses you are currently facing.