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A Holiday Wellness Check: Enjoying the season on your own terms


‘Tis the season for all things jolly and bright! With Thanksgiving just around the corner, the holiday season is officially in full swing. This is the time of year for office parties, Friendsgivings, and just plain entertaining and mingling. It is no coincidence that this time of year is accompanied by high stress and triggers for mental health disorders.  (Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)). Let’s explore ways to mitigate the affects of holiday stressors and how to make the most of this holiday season!

Identify Holiday Stressors

The great thing about holiday stress is that it is often predictable. We can anticipate when the stressors will begin and end. Perhaps your in-laws will be in town or your children’s wish list will cost a small fortune! The benefit of anticipating what causes stress is the ability to reduce the impact the stressors will have on you. So, for instance, maybe consider setting up a savings plan throughout the year to lessen the financial strain on your gift budget. Or, if you have family coming into town that you do not particularly care for, consider what boundaries to put in place if they will be visiting your home. 

Set Priorities

Before you become overwhelmed by too many commitments, it is important to identify which activities hold the most value for you. For instance, if your holiday itinerary is jam packed with baking, caroling, shopping, sending cards, visiting relatives and other activities, you are more than likely going to be overwhelmed and exhausted before 2020 even starts. When you set priorities, it becomes easier to participate in the activities that actually make you happy and turn down the ones that you do not particularly care for. 

Utilize Shortcuts

Your to-do list is a mile long. Among the items on your list – sending cards, baking, visiting family, and so on! Perhaps consider working smart and within reason. For example, send cards but rather than send them to every human you come in contact with – consider sending a few to those you hold most dear. Or rather than physically grocery shop for holiday dinner items, consider maximizing your time by trying out the new personal shopping feature that a lot of grocery stores now offer. Simply put: find a way to simplify your life. 

Modify Expectations 

Avoid the “happiness trap.” High expectations for oneself can often lead to disappointment. We expect to spend copious amounts of time with our family and friends. We expect to be the best version of ourselves for the duration of every party or family gathering. In reality, we are often reactive to our environment and the stressors that are present. So, if you know that you cannot stand politics and your family loves political talk at the dinner table, perhaps be ready to bring ear plugs to the dinner table or maybe skip dinner altogether. Be aware of your limitations and your triggers. Think back to previous years and pinpoint how much togetherness you and your family can take before feeling negative stress. When you think about the constant interactions during the holiday season, it is okay to recognize your limitations on the number of parties you can attend or the amount of time you can spend with family before losing your sanity. It is okay to set limits on what you are and are not willing to do, including forgoing visits or certain activities.

Set a Schedule

There are quite a few “errands” to run around this time of the year. Not to mention, the varying the work schedules. It is very easy to lose time to prioritize the things that are important to you, like self-care activities. Putting your plans on paper can show you, in black and white, how realistic your holiday plans may be. 

Prioritize YOUR Happiness 

It is important to take note of your stressors, but it is also important to prioritize what brings you happiness. Once you identify what those aspects are, try hard to maximize those joyful moments during the holidays.  Moreover, maintain your health, get enough sleep, maintain a balanced diet, exercise, or simply relaxing the quiet of your bedroom.


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