10 Ways to Survive the Holidays
The holiday season is a stressful time for so many reasons: your crazy relatives, sleeping in your old bedroom again, all the food…you know what I mean. The key to surviving the holidays – nay I say, thriving through the holidays -- is to be like a Boy/Girl Scout – always prepared!
To help you prepare, I’ve created this list of tips you can use to survive any family interaction the holiday season can throw at you!
1. Breathe. When we are stressed or anxious our breathing can become shallower, which can have a negative effect on our moods and bodies. The simple act of taking a deep breath can calm us down and lower our heart rate and blood pressure. Here’s one way to do it: Take a deep breath in through your nose for a count of 3, hold it for a count of 3, and then exhale through your mouth for a count of 6. Just make sure your exhale is a little longer than your inhale, and you’re set.
2. Eat Healthfully and Exercise. I know, I know, you’ve heard it a million times before, but balancing your eating and physical activity – even during the holidays- can help you manage stress and regulate emotions. Try taking a walk and managing portion sizes.
3. Cope Ahead. Expect the unexpected during the holidays. Maybe an unplanned guest shows up to your party or you burn your signature cookies. Whatever comes your way, remember to take a step back, and notice your reaction while taking slow, deep breaths (see #1). You can come up with some encouragements ahead of time to remind yourself of when things don’t go your way. Some examples: “I’m doing the best I can right now,” “I’m only human,” “I can cope with this.”
4. Contribute. Give a gift, volunteer, do something thoughtful and surprising for someone else. No matter how you give back, you will benefit by generating positive emotions for yourself while helping someone else. Contributing can also help us find meaning and gain perspective.
5. Laugh. Let’s face it, the holidays are full of opportunities to laugh (remember when you burnt your cookies? See #3). Finding a way to laugh changes body chemistry and can help change your perspective in helpful ways. So, Ho-ho-ho it up!
6. Prioritize. Cut back and prioritize your to-do list this holiday season. Now is not the time to see how many places you can be in at once or to find out if you can keep everyone happy (spoiler alert: the answers are “only one “ and “no.”)
7. Practice gratitude. Expressing gratitude for things doesn’t make everything better, but it does help decrease stress by reminding us what is going right. Before you go to bed, try writing down 5 things you were thankful for during the day. And be creative – you can even be grateful that you only had 1 unexpected guest instead of 3 (see #3)!
8. Create an escape plan. If you already know that a particular event is going to push your buttons, figure out a couple of ways to remove yourself from the situation to give yourself a break. Plan to bring your heavy coat and boots so you can take a walk around the block even if it’s snowing. Or if you’re hosting the event, make sure to keep one bedroom off-limits to guests, and use that room as your safe space to take some time for yourself if you need it.
9. Journal. Often the holidays are stressful because there is so much information swimming around in our heads. Take a few minutes each day and write down whatever comes to mind. Just the act of putting thoughts on paper helps clear our minds and decrease stress levels. After you’ve written about it, turn it into a to-do list if that would be helpful.
10. Treat yo’self. Pick out a few self-care activities you can easily do. Keep your favorite lotion or essential oil in your bag and pull it out when the stress is rising. Carve out time every week for a bubble bath and your favorite book. Whatever the activities may be, practice them regularly during the holidays, and don’t let yourself feel guilty for taking care of you!
It’s important to be gentle with yourself and others during any time of stress, and the holidays are no different. While there’s no quick fix for eliminating stress entirely, there are things you can do to help manage it and mitigate its effects. When it comes to coping skills like these, it is important to find what works for you and do that. And if this list isn’t enough, and you want some more tactics for your coping skills toolkit, check out my free download: 25 Coping Skills You Can Try!
If you’re in the Atlanta/Decatur area and need some support during the holiday season, reach out to us: