Stress, Depression, & The Holidays: Tips For Coping with a little help from the Mayo Clinic
The holidays are loaded with crazily high expectations. These expectations range from the idea that you must have good family relations, expectations for buying the most perfect and most thoughtful gifts beautifully wrapped, and for baking all sorts of delicious goodies for your family, friends, and neighbors; maybe even for the postal worker and trash person. Expectations for a happy smile on your face as you take photos of yourself and your loving family standing around the most perfectly decorated Christmas tree. How is one to cope? And when surrounded by lack of close relations how is one not to be completely, stay in bed all day under the covers, depressed?
Here are some helpful tips from the Mayo Clinic:
- Acknowledge your feelings. If you can’t be with your loved ones it is okay to express sadness and grief. Give yourself permission to cry.
- Reach out. If you are feeling isolated try to find a way to get involved with community or social events. A good way to do this is to volunteer. I know in my area that you don’t have to call in advance to help out at the soup kitchen. Usually you can just show up and they will find a way to let you help. Trust me you will feel so much better for it. Also if on the other hand you are too busy to do something like this, whatever you do, don’t feel guilty!
- Be realistic. Maybe a gift card is good enough. Not everyone has time to make thoughtful home-made gifts. Even a 5 dollar gift card for fast food or for a coffee joint is greatly appreciated. People just like to know that you thought about them. If you are broke maybe just make a quick home-made card out of blank printer paper. Ok this is not what the Mayo Clinic said. They said: “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. For example, if your adult children can’t come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos.”
- Set aside differences. Realize that you are not the only one experiencing stress and/or depression. Accept people as they are. Okay so my mom didn’t even send me a Christmas card this year. I am trying not to be upset about it. Instead I texted her a Merry Christmas blah blah blah and have decided not to think about her anymore for the next few days. This is pretty easy since we live thousands of miles apart. Maybe if its hard to set aside differences you can try your best to give people some space?
- Plan ahead. Okay this post is taking place on Christmas Eve day. It might be too late to plan ahead. While you are standing in long lines at the store, maybe jot some notes on your phone about how you can totally plan ahead next year.
- Learn to say no. This can help with that idea about putting some space between you and those who upset you. Or as the Mayo Clinic says: “Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.”
- Don’t abandon healthy habits. If you are the type that works out at the gym on a regular basis well don’t give up now. I am sure that keeping up that habit will do you good by helping to alleviate stress and keep depression at bay. If you are like me and have a lot of bad habits, well, you can try to give them up after New Year’s Eve. Right? It would probably be to stressful to give them up right now.
- Take a breather. Spending as little as fifteen minutes alone might give you enough spark to get through another few hours of holiday madness. Some things you can do with this time: a) read a book, b) look at the stars, c) have a warm cup of tea, hot chocolate, or coffee, or d) listen to music (holiday music is not recommended unless that is something you are really into)
- Seek professional help if you need it. Sometimes it is nice just to talk to someone about what you are going through. If you just want to talk it is good to call a warm line: directory of warmlines If you are considering harming yourself the national suicide hotline’s number is: 1-800-273-8255 If times are getting tough and if you are not sure that you will stay safe, don’t be afraid to call, I mean it.
Overall know that you can take control of the holidays, they don’t control you. Recognize your holiday triggers such as financial stress. Don’t put too many demands on yourself. Remember that most of the demands are demands that you put on yourself. If you are doing it to yourself know that you can stop.
I really wish you the best possible holiday. Sometimes having a pen pal helps. If you would like to exchange letters let me know in the comments and I will be happy to send you snail mail. Happy holidays from me to you.