Picture this: holiday music starts to be played in stores, homes, on the radio, and all throughout the internet. Visions of end-of-year festivities appear in the media, in store aisles, and delicious looking and smelling foods appear in restaurants, especially bakeries.
While many of us look forward to all the love, goodies, celebrations, family traditions, etc. that surround the holiday season, we are also aware of how stressful the holidays can be for individuals, family, and community. So, the question is, can we turn the stress around to something more positive so we can really enjoy the holiday season as it was meant to be experienced? Of course we can!
It simply depends on how we handle the stress…but that’s easier said than done, right? Still, it’s possible to really enjoy the holidays. Statistically we know that there are more relationship break-ups, divorces, and infidelities during the holiday season. So, what can we do?
Here are a few tips for you and your close loved ones. Improve your communication with your loved ones. While talking open and honestly is particularly important, it may be even more important to actively listen. That way plans can be combined, needed concessions can be made with good will, to ensure that a smooth and enjoyable holiday season prevails. So, talk about what you want, listen to what others want, and avoid fighting.
Another tip is to make time with your loved ones. If you want to communicate well with them, you have to make time to do this. If time is in short supply, add it into your calendar or “to do” list. Treat it as if it’s not expendable, because it likely isn’t. Plan time for communication, but also doing fun activities together. For example, if you like to cook and/or bake, do it together rather than apart. Go shopping together! If you have lots of social invitations, don’t be afraid to prioritize your time and say no to some – politely of course.
Eat as healthfully as possible. Loading up too much on sugary goodies can add to your frustration and mood – yes, there is a direct correlation between mood, sugar/refined carbohydrates, and alcohol. They can make us irritable, angry, depressed, and feeling physically ill. So, it might be a good idea to research recipes (of which there are many online) or tweak family favorite recipes by using healthier ingredients. The taste will still be superb and all of you who eat the healthier versions may feel happier!
Try to plan your holiday season in advance, especially when considering finances, which is another major stressor during the holiday season. You can establish a budget and do your best to keep within that budget, so you are not over-extended. This is where learning to say no, politely yet firmly, will come in handy. Prioritize needs and desires.
Remember that this is the holiday season, and people experience a wide variety of feelings, both the good and the difficult. So, try to be mindful, slow down, and show kindness and compassion to others. What you put out will likely come back at you! Even if others are irritable in your presence, you can still respond with love, difficult as it might be.
If you have teenagers, the holiday season can be even more challenging! The teen years, if you can remember them when you were there yourself, may have been a difficult time emotionally and behaviorally. So, your teens will be experiencing similar feelings and expressing them – well – not necessarily like an adult! Of course – they are not yet adults, and they are in an in-between time of life. They may look like adults, but don’t expect them to behave all that calmly and rationally!
Many teens are peer oriented; this is a part of their overall normal development at this time of life and making some concessions to swap out some family time for time with friends may be a good idea. Remember – we are keeping in mind that we take others’ wishes/desires into consideration. So, some family time and some friend time sounds like it may end up being a win-win situation.
Feel free to make some suggestions about teaching your teen the value of thinking about others who may be less fortunate. Instead of going to several concerts or parties, you might want to consider replacing one by going to a homeless shelter or helping another family who is in need. Your teen might surprise you as to how much he/she might get into this.
If squabbles or other unpleasant situations arise with your teens (or other loved ones), try to respond positively, and don’t let it ruin the mood of the holiday. Take some “me” time so bring you back into a balanced state of mind and your role model will be noticed and perhaps even copied.
And as always, please have a happy, holistically healthy day!
Dr. Donna Poppendieck (Dr. P) has over 30 years of experience in the mental health care field. She is a seasoned college professor and instructor for providers. She uses credible, proven holistic health strategies in instruction for parents of children with mental health challenges looking for another approach as well as healthcare providers seeking to implement or understand holistic strategies.