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  • Writer's pictureEDUCARE

Holiday Thoughts – How to Survive the Hype

By Valencia Hooper-Alexander, Director

“'Tis the season to be merry,” and other such sayings place us in a position of anticipation and expectations of, “what”? The holiday season can be full of joy and merriment, but for some, it is a season to be avoided. But how can you? Everywhere you turn there is some type of reference to the season. You are expected to spend money you may not have, entertain guests you don’t want to see, eat food you should not, and most importantly, remember what you want to forget. How can anyone survive? Well, I am here to say you can survive and do so in grand fashion – when you place the focus where it should be. I personally enjoy all this season brings as it represents peace and comfort to me. The smells, the food, the fellowship, the gifts, and most importantly the hope of a good future encompass me to share and love on all I encounter.

So, what can you do to make this time a better season for you? Let’s take control of some of the obvious stressors. Take control of the holidays.

Don't let the holidays become something you dread. Instead, take steps to prevent the stress and depression that can descend during the holidays. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or personal demands, so you can combat them before they lead to a meltdown. With a little planning and some positive thinking, you can find peace and joy during the holidays. When stress is at its peak, it's hard to stop and regroup. Try to prevent stress and depression in the first place, especially if the holidays have taken an emotional toll on you in the past.

Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can't be with loved ones, realize that it's normal to feel sadness and grief. It's OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can't force yourself to be happy just because it's the holiday season. However, the feelings do not have to take over your life. Acknowledge your feelings, give yourself a set time to be in that place, and then purposefully move away from the feelings by focusing on positive feelings and people who confirm that feeling.

Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious, or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others is also a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships. When we are able to move outside of ourselves we are able to feel better and will have a “new” memory for a time which normally does not.

Be realistic. The holidays don't have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can't come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails, or videos. Reach out to young adults similar to your children and spend time with them. This is a prime time to share your family with others creating a new tradition.

Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don't live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they're feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too. Remember this is just a day or two and you will soon go back to your routine. If you are in a family home for the holidays, respect their house rules and minimize how you want things to be in favor of the house traditions.

Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don't try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. You may want to start a new tradition for your family or make a statement on how you provide holiday spirit to those you love. Try these alternatives: · Donate to a charity in someone's name. · Give homemade gifts. · Start a family gift exchange.

Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That'll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.

Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can't participate in every project or activity. Even when you have found yourself “over-booked” you can still re-organize and say no to activities you can’t make. The important aspect here is for you to determine what is important to you. Find another time to visit people you are unable to see during this time.

Don't abandon healthy habits. Don't let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. We can enjoy the good food and drinks in moderation. Try to keep your exercise routine and eating habits close to normal so you avoid being hungry when going to parties. This way you can sample more foods without overindulgence. Try these suggestions: · Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don't go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks. · Get plenty of sleep. · Incorporate regular physical activity into each day.

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. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing, and restoring inner calm. Some options may include:

· Taking a walk at night and stargazing.

· Listening to soothing music.

· Getting a massage.

· Reading a book.

Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

The holiday season does not have be a time of avoidance. Try these suggestions to make your holiday the best ever. Regardless of the season, the best thing is to sharing with those you love and care about. If you don’t have someone in your life to love, this is a great opportunity to volunteer to help others and make new friends.

Information obtained from the staff of the Mayo Clinic:

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