by AINSLEY LAWRENCE
The holidays are a time to get together with the people you love. If you’re spending the season with your family, it’s a great way to reconnect and feel that sense of togetherness that so many of us have been missing over the last two years.
But, people of all different ages and backgrounds make up a family unit. That can lead to some stress, tension, and even some resentment in certain familial situations. A 2015 survey found that about 44 percent of people get stressed during the holidays. While things like finances and a busy schedule are the greatest contributors to stress, family issues can also be a major source.
So, what can you do to take as much stress out of the holidays as possible this year? How can you stop feeling overwhelmed by your family so you can actually enjoy your season? We’ve got a few pointers that can make a big difference.
Many people associate the holidays with having to attend countless events or host them yourself. You might feel obligated to go to certain things or see certain family members, even if you’re feeling burnt out or you know that those family members can trigger you in negative ways.
One of the best things you can do to reduce stress this season is to set boundaries – for yourself, and your family. Setting boundaries isn’t selfish, and it’s a great way to maintain your mental health during a stereotypically stressful season.
First, understand that it’s okay to say “no” to things. You don’t have to accept every invitation. You don’t have to make your famous pecan pie for every get-together. You also don’t have to be forced into conversations with people.
By setting boundaries, you’ll be less likely to burn out over the season. But, don’t just set them for yourself – make sure others know about them. Talk to your family about what you will and won’t accept, and how they can respect those boundaries so you can get the well-deserved break you need throughout the season without feeling guilty about it.
Check In With Your Kids
It’s easy to assume that kids are always full of energy and excitement throughout the holidays. After all, so much of the season caters to children, from Santa Claus to the beautiful colors, lights, and sounds.
But, kids can experience stress and anxiety, too, especially if they’re overwhelmed. Make sure to check in with your kids throughout the season to make sure they’re handling everything well. You can reduce seasonal stress for them by:
- Staying calm
- Helping them to set their own boundaries
- Sticking to a routine
- Finding healthy outlets for their energy
- Planning breaks for rest
If one of your children already tends to struggle with anxiety, it’s important to take extra care around the holidays to manage their mental well-being. If you haven’t already, now might be the perfect time to set your child up with a therapist. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been proven to be effective in treating anxiety in kids and teens. It’s a great way for your child to learn how to manage their anxiety through anything, and carry those skills with them into adulthood.
You might not think you have any time to relax and practice self-care during the holidays, but that’s exactly why you need to make it a priority. Find little ways each day to relax or do something you enjoy, especially if you start to feel overwhelmed.
Keep in mind that self-care doesn’t need to be anything luxurious or extravagant. Don’t force yourself to go on a vacation or do something that’s inherently “relaxing,” like going to the spa. If that’s your cup of tea, great, but if you’re doing it to make yourself relax, you could end up feeling more anxious and stressed.
Instead, focus on the little things that can make a big difference in how you feel. Self-care shouldn’t be an obligation, it should be something you look forward to. Some of the best self-care practices during the holiday season include:
- Making sure you’re getting enough sleep
- Eating healthy
- Enjoying the beautiful scenery
It’s not uncommon for people to experience more sadness this time of year, especially thanks to the weather. It can throw off everything from the serotonin levels in your brain to your circadian rhythms. By taking care of yourself, sleeping well, and spending as much time outside as possible, you can fight off the symptoms of seasonal sadness, and even depression.
Whether you’re getting together with your extended family and want to de-stress ahead of time or you’re just trying to get through the holidays with your immediate family, this time of year doesn’t need to cause problems for your mental health. Keep these tips in mind to reduce stress and appreciate everything the season has to offer.