Depression, stress, and anxiety lead people to find a therapist or counselor at all times of the year. But emotional triggers and stressful tasks and obligations are especially close-packed during the holiday season. Most of the time, the holiday celebration itself—the gathering of family and friends—is a positive, uplifting experience. But the weeks leading up to the holidays are fraught with errands to run, gifts to buy, donations to make, gatherings to plan, and food to prepare. With so much to do, the holidays aren’t all joy and laughter: you don’t have to be a professional therapist or counselor to recognize that these times can make anxiety and stress, depression and loneliness worse.
So what to do? Well, if you’re truly feeling overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to visit a counselor or therapist to get professional guidance. But if you’re toeing what feels like a typical line between calm and frazzled, focus on two things to keep the holidays less stressful: working ahead and keeping it simple. First, working ahead. Make time early in the month to get shopping done so that last minute purchases are the exception, not the majority. If hosting a get-together, plan dishes that can be prepped ahead of time, and get help from the family by preparing the house (and even the dishes) the day before. Second, keeping it simple. You may not be able to do everything and be everywhere. Holiday traditions don’t have to be clung to if they don’t work anymore: re-arranging who gathers where is okay. Just be realistic!
Then there’s the emotional side of the holiday season. Grief counselors often discuss upcoming holidays with their patients. Even if it’s been more than a year since you’ve lost your loved one, the holiday focus on memories, friends, and family can make fading pain fresh again. Deal with holiday-related grief by recognizing the pain and paying tribute to the person’s memory with a favorite dish or activity or by sharing stories. Present-day relationships can also be strained under the stress of the holidays: avoid romantic turmoil by integrating some of the stress-reduction tips mentioned above. And if you’re alone on the holidays, you’re not the only one. Reach out to friends in a similar situation, or get involved with an organization that needs holiday volunteers. Any positive human connection on the holidays is a good one.
© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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