The National Mental Health Association reports that more people experience
post-holiday let down after January 1 than they do during the holidays themselves, often resulting from disappointments during the preceding months compounded with excess fatigue and stress.
If we’re not mindful of how we are approaching this season, stress could rob us of the real joy that the holidays can bring. To avoid holiday stress and depression, begin by setting reasonable expectations of yourself and others with goals that are manageable.
Create a master to-do list that you can then break down into weekly and daily lists to avoid relying strictly on memory or loosing track of tasks. Organize your time and prioritize activities. Spreading out activities over time will reduce stress and allow more time to enjoy individual experiences.
Here are several tips on how to enjoy the holidays to the fullest from the Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit worldwide leader in medical care, research and education for people from all walks of life:
As you move through the coming days, take time out from the activities around you to be still. Remember the primary focus of this time of celebration. Choose thoughts and actions that will anchor that purpose as the season unfolds--a season of joy, of hope, of promise, of peace.
- Don't abandon healthy habits. Don't let the holidays become a dietary free-for-all. Some indulgence is OK, but overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.
- Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don't go overboard. Continue to get plenty of sleep and schedule time for physical activity.
- Acknowledge your feelings. If a loved one has recently passed away or you aren't near your loved ones, realize that it's normal to feel sadness or grief. It's OK now and then to take time just to cry or express your feelings. You can't force yourself to be happy (all the time) just because it's the holiday season.
- Seek support. If you feel isolated or down, seek out family members and friends, the church community, or area social services. They can offer support and companionship.
- Consider volunteering at a community or church function. Getting involved and helping others can lift your spirits and broaden your social circle.
- Be realistic. As families change and grow, traditions often change as well. Hold on to those you can and want to. However, understand in some cases that may no longer be possible. Perhaps your entire extended family can't gather at your house. Instead, find new ways to celebrate together from afar, such as sharing pictures, e-mails, or connecting through social media like Skype.
- Set differences aside. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don't live up to all your expectations. Be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they're feeling the effects of holiday stress, too.
- Stick to a budget. Before you go shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend on gifts and other items.
- Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends, and other activities. Plan your menus and then make one big food-shopping trip. That'll help prevent a last-minute scramble to buy forgotten ingredients.
- If traveling, allow extra time so that delays won't worsen your stress.
- Learn to say no. Believe it or not, people will understand if you can't do certain projects or activities. If you say yes only to what you really want to do, you'll avoid feeling resentful and overwhelmed.
- Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do.
- Rethink resolutions. Resolutions can set you up for failure if they're unrealistic. Don't resolve to change your whole life to make up for past excess. Instead, try to return to basic, healthy lifestyle routines.
- Forget about perfection. Holiday TV specials are filled with happy endings. But in real life, people don't usually resolve problems within an hour or two. Something always comes up. Expect and accept imperfections.
Happy Holidays! We'll see you at the gym!