As the holiday season quickly approaches, many people are filled with extra holiday cheer and enthusiasm.  Some are jolly, but still overwhelmed with all of the activities, decorating, and shopping that needs to be completed.  Then, there are those that find the holiday season as a reminder of things such as, the death of a loved one, family feuds, divorce, and the list goes on. If you are feeling this way here are a few tips to make getting through the season a little bit easier.

1. Feel your emotions – Many people want to suppress their sadness or anxiety, but this only makes it worse. We are all allowed to grieve, cry and feel mad at times.  If you feel this way, let yourself feel your feelings.  You will feel better once you have accepted and worked through the emotions. You also do not have to force yourself to feel happy just because it is the holiday season.

2. Reach out to others – Instead of secluding yourself spend time with others, whether it is at church, a community group or with family and friends. Spending time with others and socializing is good for the spirit.  In addition, there are tons of volunteer opportunities during the holidays.  Try something new and volunteer your time to a worthy cause.  You will feel great about helping others and contributing to the cause. Research such as this one conducted by UnitedHealth Group commissioned a national survey of 3,351 adults and found that the majority of participants reported feeling mentally and physically healthier after a volunteer experience. The research showed:

  • 96% reported that volunteering enriched their sense of purpose in life
  • 94% of people who volunteered in the last twelve months said that volunteering improved their mood
  • 80% of them feel like they have control over their health
  • 78% of them said that volunteering lowered their stress levels
  • 76% of people who volunteered in the last twelve months said that volunteering has made them feel healthier
  • About a quarter of them reported that their volunteer work has helped them manage a chronic illness by keeping them active and taking their minds off of their own problems
  • Volunteering also improved their mood and self-esteem

3. Be realistic – Realize that times and traditions change as families grow and age. Do not focus on everything having to be the same every year.  Be willing to accept changes, such as adult children may not be able to attend the family gathering, so utilize technology and talk through video conferencing, share pictures on email and/or Facebook.  Find a way to make it work.

4. Set aside differences for everyone’s sake. Aim to accept family and friends the way they are, even if they do not meet your expectations. Leave grievances at the door for the day and enjoy your family and friends. Share those grievances and talk at a more appropriate and private time. Also, remember they could be feeling the stress of the holiday too. So, be patient if someone is grouchy or sad as you celebrate.  You may both be feeling the same way.

5. Learn to say no – Be realistic in the number of activities you and your family can participate. Do not feel guilty because you cannot attend every party and event you are invited too.  Graciously decline an invite and share that your schedule is booked, but thank them for thinking of you. A host does not expect that everyone will attend their parties.

6. Take a breather as needed – If you start to feel overwhelmed with anxiety, anger or sadness take a few minutes to be alone. Take 15 minutes to spend in the quiet to reduce the stress and clear your mind. For example: listen to soothing music, do a few mindful breathing exercises to slow yourself down or read a book to temporarily escape the stress.

7.Seek professional help as needed – there are times when the emotions are just too overwhelming to sort through on our own. If you continue to feel sad, anxious, angry, etc. there is absolutely no shame in seeking the help of a doctor or mental health professional. It will only help you work through your feelings with a non-bias person. Helping yourself feel better will improve your quality of life and those around you.

Do not let the idea of the holidays turn you into a modern day Ebenezer Scrooge.  Learn to take care of yourself first. Learn your limitations and accept them.  Do not let others’ expectations overwhelm you.  Just remember when you start feeling extreme levels of emotions and/or stress take a few deep breathes and remind yourself to relax and feel the moment.  Be mindful of your surroundings and remind yourself of your many blessings, even when going through difficult times.  Make it your personal goal to feel your feelings and enjoy what you can about the holiday season, whether it is the twinkling lights, time with friends and family, the food or any of the many special holiday traditions.

Aim to find JOY during this holiday season.

Sources:

Stress, depression and the holidays: Tips for coping. www.mayoclinic.org,

Signs and Symptoms of Depression http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/FY/FY10000.pdf

Depression and Older Adults  http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/FY/FY95200.pdf

Melanie Taylor

Extension Agent III, 4-H Youth Development and Family & Consumer Sciences, UF/IFAS Gulf County Extension, Focus areas include youth and volunteer development, 4-H life skills, healthy living, nutrition and food safety. Bachelor's degree in Education from Radford University. Master of Science in Education degree in Career and Technical Education from Virginia Tech.
http://gulf.ifas.ufl.edu

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