Eight Top Ways to Cope with Holiday Stress
There are any number of reasons the holiday season can be hard. Financial or family stresses are common, and the pressure to enjoy yourself can make enjoyment even harder. Whether you're celebrating Christmas or some other holiday season, these top tips will help you have a happier holiday.
- Plan ahead
Channel Santa; make a list and check it twice. First, list all the things you need to do, then sort them out into an order of importance and which can be done quickest. If it looks too much, check if you really need to do all those things; do you need to spend a whole day trudging round shops when eBay is there? Ask someone else to check the list for you if you're worried you've forgotten something, and remember to check things off once they're done. Posting the list on a noticeboard in a room you're often in, can make sure you remember it.
- Get others involved
Another good reason for posting your list from step 1 in a public room is so your family members can see what needs to be done too. Encourage them to help you, so the burden's not all on you, and so you can bond over sharing the work. Maybe it’s time to teach your kids the Christmas cake recipe? Would your neighbour like to walk your dog with his while you decorate? Many hands make light work.
- Help others
Few things make you appreciate a season of giving more than giving to others. If you can, donate some money or volunteer your time to a charity. The winter holiday season is especially hard for the homeless, elderly, disabled, ill, mentally ill, and for underprivileged children, and your help for any of these causes can both make all the difference to them and make you feel happy for making other people happy. If you don't have much money or time to give, now is a good time to go through your old belongings for anything you don't use anymore which can be donated to a charity shop. Even torn or stained clothes can usually be recycled; ask the shop if they do this. Think of it as making room for new gifts! www.givewell.org can help you find which charities will use your donations best.
- Keep up everyday stress relief
Remember all those methods of dealing with stress you've picked up elsewhere? Make sure to make some time for them. A hot bath, a cup of herbal tea, a few minutes of meditation, reading some heartwarming stories, or listening to your favourite song can all help. See previous articles for more suggestions!
- Keep some time for yourself
Even when the whole family's getting along perfectly, the routine change of having more people than usual around can be hard. If it starts to get to you, it's okay to excuse yourself and spend some time in a quiet room or outdoors. If you have a partner or spouse, try to spend some time with only them without kids or parents around, too.
- In extreme cases, you may not want to join your family at all. If they're abusive or unaccepting of you, don't feel obliged to go home just because you're 'supposed to';. If you really can't face it, spend the day alone with a warm drink and a good book, or at a friend's house, or volunteering (see above), and don't feel guilty. Your priority is your own mental health. If you still live with them or you must go to see them, try arranging for friends to text or call you on the day to cheer you up.
- If you do want to be with your family but can't, for example, if you can't afford to travel to see them, then similarly don't feel too bad about it, but make an effort to call. Try to spend time with loved ones who are nearby, too; a local friend might be happy to see you.
- If it's serious, seek help
Winter is a peak time for problems such as Seasonal Affective Disorder, and holiday stress can aggravate anxiety and depression. A holiday where everyone around you appears happy can also make other problems seem worse, for example, if it's the first Christmas after a loved one's death or a break-up. If it goes beyond manageable stress, it's time to seek help. If you feel you may be a danger to yourself, call the Samaritans at 116 123 or contact them via their website at www.samaritans.org. If the problem is about money, try www.turn2us.org. If your stress is long-term, maybe make a new year resolution to see a therapist and get help to cope. No matter what your problem, it is possible to find help.
Debbie Waller is a professional hypnotherapist, specialising in stress, anxiety and related issues. She also offers EMDR which is used for trauma, PTSD, phobias and OCD and publishes hypnotherapy-for-ibs.co.uk for those interested in using hypnotherapy to relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Debbie owns a multi-accredited hypnotherapy school, Yorkshire Hypnotherapy Training and offers further training for qualified therapists via CPD Expert. She is the author of Their Worlds, Your Words, editor and contributor to the online magazine Hypnotherapy Training & Practitioner, and co-author of The Hypnotherapy Handbook.
For more information on any of these services, phone 01977 678593.
Researcher & drafter: Rachel Waller.