How To Thrive During The Holidays: A Survival Guide

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We generally look forward to the holidays because they are a fun opportunity to get together with family and friends. But holidays can also bring unwanted stress and pressure that diminish, and even completely wreck, the fun times we’d like to have.

Some very common holiday stressors include difficult relationships with family and friends, financial stress, and fatigue due to the many and various obligations.

Prevention of stress is the key to a happy holiday season. By following these suggestions you will be planning ahead and insulating yourself from the potential downsides of the holidays.

1. Be realistic. This is my favorite tip! The holidays don’t have to be perfect. For many people they feel the strong need for every holiday to be the best ever. The stress and ultimate let down that you will experience by pressuring yourself, and those around you, to enjoy every minute of the holidays is one of the main culprits in ruining the holidays. Keep some traditions, be open to others, but don’t plan every minute. Allow things to happen spontaneously.

2. Be proactive. Don’t wait for the good times and social support to come to you. If you feel lonely or are unable to be with friends or family this year seek social events to attend, or throw a party at your place!

3. Help others. Serving others really is the key to a happy holiday season and the bonus is that you feel happiness as well. Volunteering your time is a good way to lift your spirits and make new friends.

4. Be honest with yourself about how the holidays affect you. If you’re experiencing sadness or grief this time of year, acknowledge it. This will help you set reasonable expectations for yourself, as well as inspire you to get the support you need.

5. Remember that the holidays are not a great time to resolve differences. Take a tip from The Ramones’ classic Christmas song, “I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight.” This is not the time to hammer out resolutions to past relationship problems. Either do that prior to getting together, or learn to tolerate and accept the others until the holiday party is over.

6. Don’t overspend. The best holidays don’t come in boxes; they are the memories we have of being together. Decide prior to going to the store what you can afford. Nothing will ruin a great holiday memory more than the stress of breaking the bank. When families grow to include children, grandchildren, and cousins consider that it may be wise to stop buying individual gifts. Try giving family gifts or just getting together for dinner or an evening out.

7. Manage your time wisely. Schedule in advance specific days for shopping and party planning. Then plan unstructured time with friends and family.

8. Don’t be afraid to say no. The good intentions of friends and family may spread you too thin. Make sure you know what you have time and energy for and then politely say no to the rest. Others will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity that comes your way.

9. Keep your healthy habits. Don’t stop exercising, eating right, or getting enough sleep. These are essential for a physically and emotionally healthy holiday.

10. Make sure to rest. A holiday, in addition to parties and celebrations, should be a break from your normal routine. Make sure to take time to take it easy. Not only can this include napping, but it also means taking time to do things you usually don’t have time for like going to a movie, listening to music, or reading a book.

Following this survival guide will surely help you not only survive the holidays, but thrive during the holidays!

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About Author

Matt Woolley, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist and assistant professor in the Department Psychiatry at the University of Utah. He completed his Doctoral and Masters degrees at Wichita State University in Clinical Psychology, an internship at the University of Kansas Medical School and a post-doctoral residency at the University of Utah’s Neuropsychiatric Institute. In clinical practice Dr. Woolley conducts psychological assessments, sees patients for psychotherapy, and teaches doctoral students in psychology and residents in psychiatry. He is a regular guest on KUTV Channel 2’s Fresh Living discussing relationships and parenting. He has also been a long-standing weekly radio guest on local radio, podcast host and public speaker.

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