It’s that time of year – the holidays. Christmas is just around the corner, and before we know it the new year will be upon us. This time of year also sees higher incidences of stress and depression, with an American survey indicating that 45% of us find ourselves feeling less-than-excited about the arrival of the holiday season (Williams, 2010, Psychology Today).
There are many possible reasons why some people struggle emotionally at this time of year – family issues, relationship challenges, financial problems, missing friends and family who have passed on, living too far away from loved ones to be able to see them, living too close to loved and not-so-loved ones to avoid seeing them, social pressure, pushing yourself to complete things before the end of the year, berating yourself over things that happened or didn’t happen during the year, and so on.
Regardless of what may or may not be affecting you, here are some simple strategies to help you cope as we head towards 2017:
- Be kind to yourself – putting pressure on yourself is not good for your physical and mental wellbeing, so take a deep breath and then look at the situation objectively. Are you stressing over tasks that are still incomplete? Do what you can and know that the world is not going to stop turning if you don’t achieve everything on your list. Thinking back and stressing out over things that happened or didn’t happen during the year? Guess what? They’re done, and they can’t be changed. Make your peace with that indisputable fact, let it go, and move forward.
- Family issues – does this time of year fill you with dread because it involves having to spend time with extended family who you may or may not get along with? That’s a common one – and a tough one. Many people feel a strong sense of obligation to attend these sorts of events even if they really don’t want to. Here’s the deal though: only you control your thoughts, feelings and actions. So your choices are: (1) buy into the drama, making yourself more stressed in the long run; (2) don’t attend; or (3) attend and be gracious, letting slings and arrows roll off you like water droplets. If you can’t do option three, then do option two. Your family will understand (and if they don’t – hey, that’s their thing, not yours).
- Living too far away from loved ones to see them – stressful, yes, but not unmanageable. There are two options here: say to hell with it and jump on a plane/train/bus/camel, even if it takes you 73 hours with six stopovers, or connect via the magic of the Interwebs. Skype, FaceTime and a host of other services offer high quality (and High Definition) video calling so, as long as you have a decent internet connection, you can feel like you’re a part of the action from the comfort of your couch. Just remember to put some pants on before you dial…
- Living too close to avoid seeing loved ones – as much as we all love our family and friends (even the ones who might test our patience from time to time), if you see one another frequently then perhaps spending the holidays together is one step too far. That’s okay, and nothing to feel guilty about. Either go ahead and spend time with your loved ones, then do something nice for yourself afterwards, or take a leap and decide to go away for Christmas. Again, those who love you will understand.
- Missing loved ones – this is a hard one. When my mother-in-law passed, who I was quite close with, our first Christmas was such a sombre affair. Now, though, I make a point of reminiscing about the funny things she would say and do, and it makes for a much more joyous occasion. If you’re missing someone terribly at this time of the year, go visit their grave if you can, to say hi and pay tribute, or if that’s not possible (e.g. Due to distance or cremation) then do something uplifting in honour of them. I lost a beautiful friend to breast cancer this year, and I plan to honour her and our friendship by listening to Queen while finding as many filthy and funny memes as I can (trust me – she would approve!)
- Financial pressure – Christmas can be an expensive time of year if you let it get out of hand, so why not choose not to let it get out of hand? Limit present-giving in both number and value (I’ve seen family members give their kids multiple presents each, totalling in the thousands per child – insanity! One present is enough!); choose to do Kris Kringle with your family (with a strict price limit); agree with your partner to pool your money and spend it on a nice experience rather than a material gift; or choose not to give or receive gifts at all – it’s not the end of the world, and simply coming together for a nice meal can be far more memorable than any gift.
So there you have it – some of my tips to make it through the holidays unscathed. What works for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so feel free to leave your comments below. Whatever you choose to do (or not do!), I hope you have a wonderful Christmas/happy holidays and a brilliant new year in 2017!
My ‘A Journey of Personal Reflection’ eBooks (A Month of Inspiration, A Month of Motivation and A Month of Gratitude) make perfect holiday season gifts for friends, family, colleagues, clients or even yourself. You can buy them from my website directly at a discount (see below) or from Apple iBooks, Amazon Kindle or Kobo.
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