The holidays can often be both incredibly stressful and triggering for many reasons. You’re thrown off your regular schedule. There are financial stressors and gifts to buy. You have parties and functions to attend. You could be interacting with family members who you might not always get along with, or perhaps grieving the loss of loved ones who are no longer with us. All of this while the sun sets earlier and the temperature gets colder. Given these obstacles, it’s normal to feel “off.” It’s also normal to forget how to take care of yourself. Here are some helpful reminders to survive this holiday season:
1. Set reasonable expectations for yourself.
We tend to think that we should be able to operate at our normal capacity during times of stress. This is usually not the case. When there’s so much competing for our attention, it can be harder to concentrate, we can feel exhausted, and our thought process can be altered. Because of this, it’s sometimes necessary to set the bar a little lower. We might not be able to multitask or check things off our list at the rate we usually do. This is okay! If we hold ourselves to the same high standards as normal, we can make ourselves feel guilty and frustrated for not meeting those goals. Setting a more reasonable expectation takes this pressure off and allows us to be a little kinder to ourselves.
2. Set boundaries.
This is probably the hardest tip to follow, but such an important one! Setting boundaries with family, work, friends, and ourselves is an important act of self-care. Boundary-setting doesn’t have to mean just saying “no.” This act can look different for everyone. For example, setting boundaries can be setting time limits. If it doesn’t feel comfortable or safe to turn down an invitation or task, limit the amount of time you spend doing it. If it’s a holiday party, go for an hour or two instead of the whole night. If it’s a favor that a friend or family member asks you to do, don’t spend more time on it than you have. It’s helpful to communicate these boundaries in a direct and respectful way.
3. Make time for rest.
When we are stressed, it’s normal to be exhausted. Your body is in overdrive balancing responsibilities, family/friends, schedules, work, etc. Make sure you are getting the rest you need. This may look like getting 8 hours of sleep, taking naps when you can, or just setting aside some time to unwind in front of the TV. Do what works for you.
4. Stick to a budget (if possible).
The holidays are often synonymous with spending money. It can be challenging to stick to a budget with so many additional expenses coming this time of year. Whether it’s gift shopping, buying food for holiday meals, or spending exorbitant amounts on gas, it’s a financially difficult time for most. Spend some time making a weekly or per-category budget (i.e. a gas budget, gift budget, food budget). If something doesn’t fit in your budget, it’s okay to change plans or ask people to meet you halfway. For example, the holiday party that you’re hosting can be a potluck instead of a catered event.
5. Remember that these stressors are temporary.
One of the most important things to remember this holiday season is that it won’t last forever. There is an end in sight. It’s easy to spiral when there’s so much on our plates all at once. This time of year can also be incredibly triggering when we’re grieving friends and loved ones who are no longer with us. Reminding yourself that these triggers and stressors will be over soon is a helpful act of self-care and emotional regulation.
6. Incorporate joy into the season.
This can look different for everyone! Find something that you like about this time of year- even if it’s small. It can be enjoying the food, the excuse to see loved ones, the trashy TV movies, the cold weather, or a holiday tradition. Highlight that thing for yourself whenever possible.