And how to make it through a very stressful time.
The holidays bring such joy to so many people’s lives but what is often forgotten amongst the cooking, parties, and presents is that some people are suffering on the inside. I know this first-hand from my holiday season last year.
Christmas should be a time when everyone comes together but it’s often forgotten that the holidays bring on seasonal anxiety and depression for those who suffer mildly the rest of the year. The holidays last year is what I would call my “rock bottom”. I had been suffering for months but my final “low” hit on Thanksgiving where my husband and I finally talked to our families about what was going on. Luckily, I have family who supported me to the nth degree but it didn’t take away the anxiety I suffered the remainder of the season. My experience with anxiety and depression brought on very selfish ways of thinking: “everyone is gossiping about me”, “everyone is judging me”, “no one thinks I’m capable”… the negative thoughts kept rolling and rolling through the sea-waves of my brain (more on this next month when I write all about mental health). The holidays are hard enough, but when you are dealing with intrusive thoughts it can make social situations debilitating.
I understand that it is so much easier said than done to read an article and grab a takeaway, so if you are dealing with any kind of anxiety, depression, or simply feel overwhelmed, take these tips with a grain of salt or use just one to aid in keeping one foot in front of the other. Pay attention to where your weaknesses lie and be gentle with yourself.
- No one is talking about you or judging. No one is looking at your hair, makeup, or clothes. They are also not judging your kids. If it’s a lot of effort putting together your child’s clothes and running after them to get their hair done, stop stressing over this and simply don’t do it. Everyone is busy during this time and worrying about their own agenda.
- No, your child does not need that additional toy. What you have bought so far is good enough. Stop the running around and take that last errand off your plate. Also, everyone loves a gift certificate (or money). I also think an activity together is a great way to go. Wrap a note that says “we’re seeing Mary Poppins at 7pm on Thursday”.
- If you have to buy a pre-made dinner from the local grocery store to take some pressure off and allow yourself more time, do it. Once again, people care about the company, not whether or not your homemade dinner is cooked to perfection.
- Manage your expectations. Everyone thinks they should or could do something different or better, feel more joy or happiness. Take the should and could out of the holiday. Be proud of yourself for showing up, it’s OK if you don’t feel perfect.
- If sending a Christmas Card adds extra stress to your life, skip it. Seriously, no one will remember whether you sent one in a few months. You know who cares about that darling shot of your kids? You. No one else. And no one will look at the family picture as long as you want them to.
- If there is someone that makes you feel bad about yourself, give them a friendly hello, smile, and keep walking. The holidays shouldn’t make you feel worse about yourself. If you need to take a break, do it. Find a quiet corner, gather yourself and then proceed.
- Remember that everyone finds it easy to talk about themselves. If you are stuck talking to someone and have no idea what to say, ask them questions about themselves or find some “out of the box” topics to discuss so it doesn’t remain awkward. I mean, do you really care how work is going? Why not try “been to any fun restaurants lately?”, “what are you most excited about in 2019?”, “what’s the best thing that has happened to you in 2018?” Keep it positive, you might discover something interesting and what could have been a dreadful conversation could end up teaching you something.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- If wrapping presents seems like a big “to-do” why not leave some unwrapped? Wrap the presents from you and keep Santa’s gifts unwrapped. Remember that it takes you 5 minutes to wrap one gift and .5 seconds for your kids to demolish it.
- Put yourself first. Your health is the most important. If you have recently made big strides in yourself, there is no reason to take a few steps back just to keep pace with Aunt Mary.