The holiday season often brings unwelcome guests — stress and depression. And it’s no wonder. The holidays present an overwhelming array of demands — parties, shopping, baking, cleaning and entertaining are just a few. Stress and depression can ruin your holidays and harm your health. Being realistic, planning ahead and seeking support can help impede stress and depression.
Don’t let the holidays become something you shrink from. Instead, take steps to defend against the stress and depression that can lead to a meltdown during the holidays. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers so you can extinguish them before they wreak havoc on your mental health. With a little planning and some positive thinking, you can find peace and joy during the holidays.
Prairie Counseling Center would like to offer you some practical tips that can diminish the stress that accompanies the holidays.
Tips to prevent holiday stress and depression:
When stress is at its peak, it’s hard to stop and rejuvenate. Try to thwart stress and depression in the first place, especially if the holidays have taken an emotional toll on you in the past.
Recognize your feelings. 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 cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season. Prairie Counseling Center hosts a grief support group on the first and third Tuesdays every month at 1 pm. It is free and open to anyone with a heavy heart.
Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and grow your friendships.
Be practical. The holidays don’t have to be perfect. As families change and grow, traditions can 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. Accept family members and friends as they are. Set aside tribulations until a more appropriate time for discussion. Be understanding and forgiving if others get dismayed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
Stick to a budget. Before you go food shopping, determine how much money you can spend. Then stick to it. Don’t try to buy happiness with a deluge of gifts.
Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. Make sure to map out help for party prep and cleanup.
Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and beaten. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity.
Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become pandemonium. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.
Take a breather. Make some “me time”. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything 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, call Prairie Counseling Center at 618-664-1455 to schedule an appointment with a mental health professional.