The season brings holiday cheer, but not for everyone and with an array of demands, shopping, partying, cleaning and entertaining, we are getting pulled in every direction. There are also images of love, joy, and family plastered across every storefront, TV network, and magazine, but for many people, this is not their reality. With all of this, it's easy for the holiday season to feel not-so-bright and merry, and there is a spike in stress and depression during this time. I have witnessed many people shut down during the holidays due to family conflict, loss, breakups, budget constraints, and mental illness, but this doesn't have to be your reality. You can enjoy the holiday season by incorporating some simple yet practical tips that will help you minimize the stress and feelings of depression that accompanies the holidays. Hey, you may even enjoy it more than you thought you would.
Setting aside specific days to get things done will help you eliminate unwanted stress. Plan the days you will go shopping for gifts, baking, visiting family, and other activities. Before you head out, write out your menu (ingredients included), who you're shopping for (give each person a budget), and stick to the schedule and list. Doing this will prevent last-minute scrambling to buy any missing ingredients or gifts.
Stick to a budget/be realistic
As I mentioned above, stick to your budget by writing out what you need and how much you'll spend on each. If your budget is restricted, this will help you eliminate unwanted cost and spending. If you're unable to buy gifts, think of creative ways to make gifts like body scrubs or candles. DIY gifts can be done in bulk and add a sweet personal touch.
Learn to say no
Saying yes to everything will only please everyone but you. Learn to say no and MEAN IT. When you say yes to something you don't want to do or be a part of, it will leave you feeling overwhelmed, resentful, and stressed. Avoid any situation that brings these unwanted emotions and feelings and only participate in those activities and parties you want. Your family and friend will understand, and if they don't, that's their responsibility, not yours.
I've talked about self-care in the last few post, and for some reason, many people are still neglecting themselves and doing everything for everyone, but forgetting about taking care of them first. Self-care is not selfish; it's a necessity. And while this month is the busiest month of the year, the routines that keep us happy and healthy — meditation, yoga, running, creativity — are usually the first to go, but you have to ensure you're taking care of yourself.
Spend time with those who lift you up
Year round you should be spending time with people who lift you up and encourage you, but more importantly, you should be around these people during the holidays. When you're feeling down, stressed, or depressed, it's important to be with family and friends who offer positive reinforcement. Avoid spending time alone; this will only pull you deeper into your thoughts and depression.
When I first discovered I suffered from anxiety, I learned about light exposure and the benefits it has on suppressing the brain’s secretion of melatonin; this is known as Phototherapy or bright light therapy. While this treatment may not be available to everyone, you can benefit from natural light by heading outside. Go for a walk or keep your blinds open during the day to ensure you are exposing your brain to light.
Seek professional help
If you've tried everything and the feelings of sadness and depression remain, it's okay to seek professional help. Mental illness is a disease many are still ashamed to talk about, but the more we talk about it and remove its stigma, the more likely we are at helping someone seek help. Sadness, anxiety, and depression don't have to be your reality, seek help so you can enjoy the holidays, but more importantly, so you can enjoy life.
**If you or anyone you know is in need of professional help, you can contact a healthcare professional in your area here.