Fall is a joyful time for many as the seasonal holidays approach but for some it’s a time of year leading to loneliness, stress, anxiety, sadness or depression. Some people become overwhelmed and feel stretched thin with holiday obligations while others feel alone and adrift as if they’re watching the holidays go by without feeling a part of them. Below are some questions and suggestions to help you make the most of the season and change your experience to one that is more positive and joyful.
What Shaped Your Experience?
If the holiday season is something you don’t look forward to, reflect and trace the source of your negative experiences. Did they start in childhood? Or is it the loss of treasured times as a child that brings about the sadness? Was it a negative experience as an adult? Does it have to do with being single or not having a strong support system, family or community? Are the holidays usually a time of stress and obligation or emptiness and solitude?
If you can put your finger on the origin of difficulty, you’ll have a strong lead on how to change your experience moving forward. Once you identify what you’re missing or what you unwisely endure, you’ll understand what to pull in or keep out.
Ways to Prevent a Negative Holiday Experience
If the holiday season normally results in stress or overwhelm, setting boundaries and assessing your needs will be very important.
- Say no. Saying no is not intrinsically bad or selfish. Saying no is a necessary skill needed for balance, efficiency and self-care. You can only accommodate so many people and it’s important to accommodate yourself! Know ahead of time how many parties or gatherings you’ll attend and how many nights for yourself you want and need to prevent overload.
- Have a budget. One sure way to bring about stress during the holidays is to overspend. Have a budget beforehand and keep it. Yes, it would be nice to give everyone you care about the finest present but your love for them isn’t manifested in the price tag of a gift.
- Eat healthy. It seems everywhere you go has a tray of sweets for at least a couple of months. It’s easy to partake on a regular basis. Too much sugar can lead to lethargy, weight gain and mood changes. It’s fun to enjoy the seasonal foods but do so in moderation and remember to eat healthy meals during the season.
If the holiday season is associated less with stress and overwhelm and more with sadness and depression, here are some suggestions to change your experience moving forward.
- Be proactive. If you’re naturally introverted, this task might take a bit more emotional fuel. Introverts can swing too far to the loner side and it’s easy for some introverts to find ways to dodge social gatherings. But too much of anything isn’t good and any self-aware introvert knows even they must fill their social tank at times. So, find out what gatherings are an option and commit to attending some.
- Reach out. If there aren’t many parties or get-togethers you can attend, it’s important to reach out to people you know and ask them if they’d like to get together. Think outside the box. There are lots of opportunities you can do publicly and inside the house. Below are just some of the many ideas:
- Holiday movie marathon
- Neighborhood Christmas lights tour
- Attend a public holiday festival
- Cut your own tree at a tree farm
- Day trip to a mountain town
- Attend a Christmas play or production
- Make ornaments
- Have a game night with holiday décor and food
- Tree decorating party
- Baking party
- Volunteer somewhere
- Build a gingerbread house
- Make Christmas cards
Start a New Tradition
Whether you get overwhelmed and stressed or feel sad and alone during the holidays, don’t keep it a secret. Let the people closest to you know about your experience and chances are they’ll want to support you. The old saying states if we keep doing the same thing, we’ll keep getting the same thing. That’s true! You deserve to feel good during the holidays or at bare minimum you deserve not to feel stressed or sad.
Act as if you matter. Put forth energy with some of the above ideas and start a new tradition for yourself and begin experiencing the holidays differently. Put the pattern of familiar and undesirable holiday experiences to rest and start forging a new mindset and new experiences.
For additional help coping with holiday depression and stress, please feel free to contact me or use my online scheduler to book an individual counseling session.