If the Holidays Aren’t the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

For many of us, the winter holiday season— stretching from Thanksgiving through New Year’s — contains anxiety tangled up with the gift wrap, stress as well as stuffing, loneliness rather than celebration. The contrast between the greeting card version of the holidays and our actual lives can be difficult. In addition, our usual support networks may be busy, on vacation, out of town or otherwise unavailable. We may experience financial strain, the pain of being separated from loved ones and the pressure of trying to get everything done.

Here are five tips that might help you cope with holiday stress:

Manage your expectations. Pace yourself. Pay attention to what is really important and let those home-baked cookies or some other task wait for next year.

Limit your alcohol intake. There can be more opportunities than usual to indulge or over-indulge. If you are in recovery, temptation may seem to surround you. Now is a good time to attend extra support meetings and to plan how you will manage those holiday open-house parties.

Acknowledge your feelings. You have the right to whatever emotions you are experiencing. Journaling, sharing with trusted friends, or simply identifying what you are feeling can all be helpful.

Practice good self-care. In pressured times, we often let go of the very habits that serve us well. Eat sensibly; get enough sleep; don’t let go of your exercise routine; take time to meditate, pray or just sit quietly.

Plan ahead. If your therapist will be on vacation, create a back-up plan. If you have had suicidal thoughts or feelings, the MY3 safety planning app (www.my3app.org) can be a great resource. You and your counselor can create a customized safety plan that is kept on your smartphone for when you need it.

There are also many services available to help individuals in crisis or in need of a good listener:

  • Friendship Line for older adults and adults with disabilities. (800) 971-0016
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for those in crisis or if you are worried about someone else. (800) 273-8255 Online chat is also available at suicidepreventionlifeline.org
  • The Trevor Project provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) people ages 13– 24. (866) 488-738. Online chat is also available from 1 – 6 p.m. at thetrevorproject.org/pages/get-help-now

To find resources in your county visit the Know the Signs website www.suicideispreventable.org and click “Reach Out.”

For helpful related content: Ask the Expert: Anxiety in Children during the Holidays

Image source: http://www.doctorondemand.com/gift-mental-health-top-5-tips-surviving-holidays/