There are people who look forward to the holidays, and those who dread them. It may be hard for folks who love all the festivities and bustle to understand that many see the season as super-stressful and not the most wonderful time of year. To help you put anxiety in check, follow these five tips from Charles Herrick, M.D., network chair of psychiatry at Nuvance Health.
The holidays will come and go with or without you.
In a way, they are no different from any other day in your life. So instead of dwelling on past seasons that were unpleasant, practice mindfulness and being in the moment. Even if this year turns out to be every bit as terrible as you expected, you’ve survived it before and you will survive it again. Focus on looking forward.
We all have a crazy aunt (or annoying cousin).
If your extended family drives you nuts, just remember that people don’t change. If you are forced to be with relatives who stress you out, you need to be the one who changes in anticipation of the expected triggers. For example, if your brother always gives you a gift that seems to have no thought put into it, don’t interpret that present as a comment about your value to him. You may not immediately be able to change how you feel, but you can remind yourself that the gift is not a reflection of you, and it will be forgotten in a few days. Changing your attitude puts you in control.
The season can be lonely for some.
If you don’t have any parties or events on your calendar, look for opportunities to reduce your sense of isolation. Keep in mind that the problem may be your mindset: the issue isn’t being alone but feeling alone. There’s a reason why movie theaters and Chinese restaurants are open on Christmas. Not everyone celebrates the holidays!
You no doubt have a crazy-long to-do list, especially if you are hosting any dinners or parties. And then there are your everyday responsibilities on top of all that. You will feel more in control if you plan your tasks well in advance and break them down into small, achievable steps. In other words, don’t try to set the table, wrap the presents, and trim the tree all in one afternoon. Make a daily plan and stick to it. And don’t be shy about enlisting family and friends to help or simply lend support.
The world can be incredibly toxic these days and it’s easier than ever to feel angry, anxious, depressed, and disappointed. So it’s important to learn to forgive your family, your friends—and yourself. Although people may intentionally manipulate your emotions to get you to act in their interests, it’s best to take the high road, breathe, and keep the peace. Remember: the holidays can provide cherished memories or lessons learned, but they are never defining moments in your life.