• Betsy Fitzpatrick

Holiday Stress? You’ve Got This.

The holiday season sneaks up on us without warning, giving us little time to prepare ourselves for the neverending lists of chores, obligations and family gatherings. Then there's our feelings and needs that we need to tend to. When we are overwhelmed, it is seemingly impossible to be merry or bright. How can we unburden ourselves and enjoy the end of 2018?

While bells may be ringing and mistletoe aims to encourage love and affection, the reality is that holiday overload can lead to seasonal depression. Our feelings are amplified, making loss and grief especially difficult to navigate while everyone seems to be filled with joy. Know that what you see on social media is not the entire story and that many others are suffering from the loss of a loved one this holiday season. Even if you only have ten minutes, write down your feelings to release them into the world. Since everyone doesn't have the time or luxury of cozying up in their beds every morning with a cup of coffee and a journal, there are many free journaling apps that make it simple to jot down your feelings and even rate your emotions that day. Those long check out lines may seem less daunting if you think of them as an opportunity to type out the things that are overwhelming you.

Another way to alleviate holiday exhaustion is to tap into what brings you joy and treat yourself to some of your favorite things. Maybe it’s a warm bath with peppermint bath balms, making your (not your partner’s or family’s) favorite cookies, taking a walk in the wilderness or a drive through a festive neighborhood decked out in lights. The holidays means something different to everyone but we are all sentimental about specific personal and family traditions. Strike a balance between honoring them without burning out trying to recreate the past or appease everyone's perfect holiday. You are a person, not a production designer. Set boundaries. Lean into the cooler temps and get to bed earlier. With flannel pjs. It's the little things.

If overeating is a cause of concern, the key to enjoying the holidays is being kind to yourself. Really. Balance heavy meals with exercise, start the day with a cleansing juice (even before coffee; you may not need as much caffeine as you think), drink a glass of water before meals, and if you can, be okay with the idea that you may put on a few pounds. Don’t beat yourself over it. Setting realistic expectations around food consumption and finding the time to exercise will set you up for a healthier, kinder season where cheese platters, candy, heavy meals and desserts are unavoidable.

Sometimes we need to step away from our own lives (and crazy families) to alleviate stress. There is no shortage of ways to help others over the holidays. According to a recent study by the American Psychological Association, helping others alleviates our everyday stress (something to keep in mind for your New Year’s resolutions). Check your Nextdoor app, google the nearest soup kitchen or organizations for individuals, kids, or families who may not have a place to light a menorah or hang stockings. For those of us living in California, hundreds of families were displaced by the recent fires. Is there a way that you can help them have a happy holiday? This article will connect you to these organizations.

Travel and finances weigh the heaviest around this season. But a clearer outlook may be a crayon away. Focusing on an adult coloring book while dealing with travel delays and the pushing, shoving and angry outbursts of fellow distressed travelers helps us focus on what’s in front of us and keeps us separated from the negative energy of stressed-out crowds.

Money. We can’t forget it but we can forgive it. Make peace with where you are financially this year. Do you really need to give a $50 gift certificate to your dog sitter? Maybe this year it’s $25. Believe in the adage, it’s the thought that counts. Most of us are grateful for the gesture. It's not about the money; it's about being appreciated. Think about how you feel when you receive a thoughtful handwritten card. You cherish it. You may even tear up. The recipient of your words will probably do the same.

We may find ourselves in a situation where our friends and family are not near us when everyone else seems to be surrounded by their loved ones. If a friend or neighbor invites you to drop by, don’t overthink it. They asked because they hope to see you there. Put aside your expectations of what it is going to feel like and embrace something different. You may be surprised at how much you enjoy yourself. Do invest in activities that you love: holiday specials, baking, catching up on the best books of 2018, binge-watching television shows, craft fairs or working on some DIY projects of your own.

Holidays are both historical and hopeful. How you approach each list and event is completely up to you. May yours be filled with peace, joy, and happiness in whatever shape it takes this year. No two years are alike. Make sure your name is at the top of your good list and gift him/her/them accordingly.