How To Destress Around the Holidays

Family Counseling Insights brought to you by Patricia McTague-Loft

Ah, where to begin? Do you have everything in order for the holidays – shopping done, menu set for a wonderful family dinner and all groceries purchased, Christmas or Holiday cards mailed, New Year’s Eve plans all buttoned up, baby or kid sitters booked and confirmed?

It’s enough to make you want to hide under the covers. Fortunately, there are ways to cope that can really help you destress around the holidays. An insightful article from Johns Hopkins Medicine offers some advice: “There are ways to ease through the season. To help make the most of your festivities, Neda Gould, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and director of the Johns Hopkins Mindfulness Program at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, shares some mindful tips.”

These include:

“Accept Imperfection.” That begins with managing your expectations. Be realistic about how your events will unfold. Then be pleasantly surprised when things work out better than you anticipated.  

“Don’t Lose Sight of What Really Counts.” There can be a lot of frustration around the holidays, everything from dealing with long lines at the grocery store to conflicting events for various family members. In every case it may help to put things in perspective — it’s just a traffic jam; in an hour I’ll be home with my family.  

“Respond With Kindness.” Remember that you can only control your own responses to events, not how others behave. If you run into a rude store clerk, you can choose how to respond, and you’ll feel much better if you respond with a smile.

“Rethink Your Resolutions.” Setting a major goal as a resolution is setting yourself up failure. Break down a goal into small steps and focus on achieving one small goal at a time.

Some challenges around the holidays go well beyond long lines or unrealistic expectations. If you are one of the many people who have a blended family, especially post-divorce, you may be overwhelmed by the complexity of the situation. If so, take some advice from an article by Dawn Calleja in Today’s Parent: 5 Tips For Celebrating The Holidays With A Blended Family.

Or maybe you’re concerned about your kids’ behavior around the holidays. It’s an exciting time of year and kids often do not know how to deal with their emotions. If that applies, there’s good advice in another article in Today’s Parent by Claire Gagne: 6 Ways To Keep Your Kids’ Behaviour In Check During The Holidays.

Sometimes the holidays also reveal much deeper issues that really should be resolved for your long-term mental health, and not just to make the holidays go smoother. McLean’s Guide to Managing Mental Health Around the Holidays is an excellent guide with links to resources for dealing with grief and depression and to mental health screening resources. It also includes a checklist describing six signs that you may be struggling around the holidays.

Help is always available at this time of year. Reach out if you need to and then you’ll have the opportunity to make the holidays as joyful as possible.