Well, the holidays are almost here. Many of us are making plans for Thanksgiving gatherings with our families, and if you’re like most, the stress is already building. Reflecting on last year, not having to make social plans with anyone may have seemed like a breeze with the holidays, right? Well, while we’re making ourselves prepared, we thought we’d work on a mental checklist, i.e. tips to help manage the holiday stress, and share it with you!
- First, set your boundaries. Once you set boundaries for yourself, what you will put up with from those around you, you also set up expectations from those who you surround yourself with, you automatically create a sense of ease. Not only do you cultivate self-respect for yourself, but you create a level of respect from those around you when you show what you will and will not tolerate in regards to being treated unfairly, taken advantage of, etc.
- Manage your time wisely. By managing time, we mean, learn to say no, and don’t fill your schedule with obligations. Just because a family member or friend is having a holiday event, doesn’t mean you have to attend. If it feels like it will be too much for you to attend, you can say no. Opting out is an option, and it feels really good to do so. There is a lot of power in holding your own calendar. No one else should own your time.
- Plan ahead! While you are in that calendar, be sure to make your travel plans, meal plans, grocery shopping plans, etc. so that you are not running around at the last minute, which is super stressful. Perhaps you can get some other family or friends to take part in some meal preparation and/or sharing of the potluck. Go ahead and coordinate all of that now. PotluckHub is a great app for everyone to link up and coordinate for a potluck- sort of like a project management tool for a potluck event.
- If finances and/or gift giving is something that is a stressor for you, take that stresser out. We took the physical gift-giving portion out of the holidays a few years ago, and made the holidays more about experiences, and compassion. Here are ways you can do so. We have always loved making baked goodie boxes as gifts, using recipes from family members. You can read about those here. You can also make sure to set a budget to stick to through the holiday season to help curb your anxiety.
- Keep it real! The holidays are no Hallmark movie. No one has the perfect holiday dinner theme, or tradition that will always be the same. Families change, people’s schedules change, and when things aren’t exactly the same, that is ok. Just because the holidays don’t look the way they do on television, or end with everyone drinking hot chocolate and singing carols together watching snow, doesn’t mean it is a bad time. Ask us sometime about the Christmas night that we ended up at Hooters. True story.
- Ask for help. Remember, therapy and/or counseling is something that is always available should you need it. A resource that we always recommend is Mental Health Match, where you can find the therapy solution that fits your needs. Sometimes, all you need is a neutral party to listen and help you with some coping mechanisms.
- Exercise. We cannot express the importance of exercise in relation to reducing stress. In the most stressful moments, taking a walk, run, bike ride, whatever it is for you to get your body moving, and your heart pumping will reduce stress, especially in the thick of the holiday stress.
- Lastly, when you’re at a family gathering and things get tense, because let’s not kid ourselves, we all have those ignorant blood relations who we’re embarrassed by and make us cringe, who always say something really stupid and make you wonder how someone hasn’t beat the hell out of them in public yet… just go back to that “plan ahead” bullet at the top, and already have a reason that you “need to leave,” because you have boundaries that you’ve set with yourself. You don’t need to be around people who are toxic to your well being, nor mental health. You get the hell out of there, go home, watch Hallmark, and enjoy your holiday season.
If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.