Through the strands of multi-colored lights there are those that flicker, and ones that burn out completely. Often if one burns out, it affects the entire strand. No one wants to be that burned out bulb, and wants even less to be the cause of the other lights around them going out.
When the holiday season rolls around, there are those who expect more guests on their doorstep than just in-laws and extended family. Both stress and depression often knock on many doors during the annual time of otherwise merriment, and it’s easy to find yourself opening your door to them with an invitation to step inside.
Stress and responsibilities tend to pile up during this time of year, and if you aren’t sharing the joy of the season like those around you, then your two newest guests can trick you into thinking they are your best–if not only–confidants.
There can be more to the season than just stress and depression wrapped up under the tree.
Whether you’ve been tasked with hosting both sides of the family this holiday season or worried about how to fund your child’s ever-growing wishlist, remember the reason for the season. Ultimately, it is a time to spend together with the ones you love, and not about how many dishes make it to the table or the number of gifts that fit below the tree.
Maybe the coronavirus (COVID-19) is interfering with your plans and you’re upset that this year may not look like past ones. Maybe you’re fearful for the health of your loved ones.
Your stress is valid, and you shouldn’t feel guilty if the holiday season isn’t one you often look forward to. Just because your stresses are valid, however, does not mean that you get a free pass in dwelling on them. A little stress is healthy, but too much is detrimental to your health.
There are ways to address your stress and make the most out of the season of joy, even when joy seems hard to come by.
Tips on Preventing Holiday-Related Stress
- As previously mentioned, you should acknowledge your feelings. Don’t feel guilty for feeling the way you do. Though it may not feel like it when you’re surrounded by smiling snowmen decorations and cheerful music on TV, you are not alone if the holidays are difficult to stomach.
- Don’t create unrealistic expectations. Know your limits. The holiday season is an easy one to find yourself stretched thin, but there are only so many hours in a day. Pick a tradition or two that’s close to your heart, but don’t let it ruin your holiday if you can’t complete a generation’s worth in one night. The table is only so large, don’t stuff an unreasonable amount and risk breaking a dish. Your child will understand if Santa’s stock is a little low in a year like 2020. You are a person, and people have limits. In the healthiest way possible, find yours.
- Seek professional help if necessary. Along with stress can come depression. The holiday season can especially make people perceptible to the feeling. No matter how many smiling faces refuse to mirror your own, and you feel alone in a cheerful season such as Christmas or Hannakuh or Kwanzaa, etc, know that you are anything but. The most “wonderful time of the year” can feel the loneliest to those who don’t share the sentiment. It’s okay and even normal, but if the feeling becomes overwhelming then don’t hesitate to reach out. Take care of yourself.
Taking Back the Holidays
Just because the holidays can be a difficult time of year doesn’t mean it has to become a season of dread. Simply assess your stressors, find what bothers you most, and take it easy when you find your problem areas. It’s easy to become the scrooge of the family or Grinch of the neighborhood when your blood pressure is at an all-time high. Don’t let it get to that point. Listen to the needs of both your mind and your body.
Take a breath. Take a break. Don’t put the pressure of someone else’s happiness on your shoulders.
Even if it’s not frosted over in snow or covered in candy cane dust, take the steps you need to find joy in the season.