The holidays are suppose to be a time filled with joy, love, and cheer! Unfortunately that is not always the case. The holiday season (arguably the day after Halloween to the day after New Year’s) has become one of the most stressful times of year for individuals, couples, and families alike. That’s why it is so important to identify your coping skills (and exit strategies) before participating in all the holiday “cheer” to reduce all the holiday stress.
Take a Deep Breath
Before you walk into those bustling malls, step into the front door of those relatives hosting dinner, or before any moment of stress…take a deep breath. Slowly breathe in through your nose for 5 seconds, then release slowly through your mouth for 5 seconds. This slows down your heart rate and allows you to step into these spaces feeling calm and prepared for the moment.
Go for a Pre- or Post-Meal Walk
Those big meals can be delicious, but between the extravagant preparation, heated discussions at the table, and the amount of carbs consumed… a walk can be a good way to de-stress. Find your favorite relative and convince them to take a stroll. It’s a great way to quietly catch up with your family and take a break from the kitchen chaos.
Sit at the Kids Table
This may be more stressful for parents, but if your the fun aunt or uncle (or slightly older cousin) it can be a great way to avoid all the “so when are you going to [fill in the blank]?” questions from the adults. When you are anticipating painful conversations, why not save yourself the stress and catch up with the little ones, and learn about the new dances sweeping the nation.
Have Your Comeback Ready
You know all your family’s buttons. You know who is likely to ask those annoying questions or make those slick comments. Do your homework ahead of time and make mental note of all the reasons they shouldn’t be talking. If you aren’t one for comebacks, try some “I statements” at the table. For example: I feel [frustrated, attacked, annoyed, etc.] when I’m asked about [my love life, school, work, etc.] because [it is a private matter, I don’t want to discuss stressful topics, I want to enjoy my dinner, etc.], so please refrain from prying anymore.
Choose to Not Participate
Just because you are invited to events does not mean you have to attend every one. Between festive outings, holiday parties, and family dinners, the holidays can be overwhelming. Choose to attend the events where you will feel most at home, whether that is a friends-giving or a crazy sweater party with your favorite cousins. Choosing to travel on your own or stay close to home are all options that can help replenish your soul for the new year. Figure out what works for you!
Start Your Own Traditions
Last, but not least…create new traditions that are aligned with your own personal values and beliefs. The holidays are about resetting and realigning with those things that drive you everyday. Take some time out for yourself to identify your values and what new traditions you would like to establish to put those on display.
All this to say, instead of holiday stress I hope your holiday season is one filled with peace, love, and happiness in whatever form that finds you. May you find support from those around you and calm in your moments alone. If you are in crisis please reach out to mental health resources here.