The holidays can be difficult for some people. The stress of our upcoming Thanksgiving visit in Utah with our daughter, Chloe, is slowly creeping up on me.
Chloe is receiving a four-night pass for Thanksgiving, so we decided to rent a house in Sundance, Utah. Jeff’s parents, my parents, Sophia, Jeff and I are all traveling out to see her and spend the holiday weekend with her. While I’m super excited, I also know Chloe needs an abundance of structured activities to keep her active mind occupied, and structure is not something that comes naturally to me while on vacation. Plus, the unpredictability of our visit and family dynamics have me a little on edge.
Below are some tips our therapist has recommended for a successful holiday with Chloe and family, as well as guidance from the professionals at Psychology Today and the Mayo Clinic:
- Plan ahead. This is a big one for our family to clarify expectations and set boundaries, not only with Chloe but our other family members.
- Experts suggest identifying specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That’ll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.
- Learn to say no. Another primary goal for Jeff and me during our holiday with Chloe is to stick to our boundaries and say “no” when appropriate. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Family, friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say no, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
- Acknowledge your feelings. Even recognizing and expressing that you’re starting to feel overwhelmed or stressed out can help take the edge off.
- If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
- Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones.
- Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress, too.
- Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.Try these suggestions:
- Add healthy snacks or meals to your day.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Incorporate regular physical activity into each day.
- Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm. Experts suggest:
- Taking a walk or stargaze at night.
- Listening to soothing music.
- Reading a book.
- Ask for help. Holidays are often a time people attempt to take on too much, do too much on their own. It’s OK to ask for help from family and friends. Whether for decorating, shopping, cooking, or a shoulder to lean on, ASK.
- Be good to yourself. If you’re feeling blue, pamper yourself, do what feels good, what you want to do. Try to take a walk, spend time alone if that’s what you want. Remember, this is your holiday too and you can be there for yourself just like you try to be for everyone else.
- Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.