As the holidays approach and our high school students prepare for their final exams we may all be in need of suggestions for managing stress.
Validating and naming our emotions is the first step in controlling those feelings,. Don't deny the feelings but help your teen build an emotional vocabulary to better cope. Also, Deborah Gilboa MD a recent GPS presenter reminded us that encouraging our children to seek professional help while living at home reduces the stigma when at a later date -like college- professional help may be necessary. Thanks to the Family Institute for the tips below.
Managing Holiday Stress
The holidays are times for joyous celebration; enjoying gatherings for family and friends; and having that second pumpkin pie. These same cheerful traditions can cause copious amounts of stress and worry. Here are some ways to tackle the upcoming holidays in a happy and healthy way:
Validate your feelings. Some people will try to ignore feelings of sadness or loneliness to maintain the holiday spirit. Ignoring these feelings can only increase over time and affect your overall mood during the holiday season. Rather than ignore them, make sure to be aware of your feelings and how they are impacting you. This also can give you insight into other strategies of how to handle what is bothering you.
Engage in social activities. Go to your friends’ Christmas open house or to your local religious community. Visit your neighbors or family members. When feeling an increase in sadness or loneliness around the holidays, you should make an effort to see those you care about as feeling isolated only increases feelings of depression. If you do not have friends or family available, you can try participating in your local community or religious community.
Give back to your community. Participate in other holiday activities in light of the season of giving by giving back. Donate toys or buy a Christmas gift for a family in need. Spend time at a food drive, homeless shelter, or even food pantry. Giving back can provide a fulfilling sense of happiness.
Budget your finances. Holiday shopping and sales are endless during this time of year. Make sure to set up a financial budget ahead of time before the shopping takes over your wallet. This can aid in preventing unwanted financial burdens as the New Year rolls in. Perhaps create new traditions of white elephant gifts or secret Santas for larger groups of family or friends as ways to monitor your financial stress with gifts.
Try something new. Traditions are wonderful and can provide nostalgic happiness for some. For others, it can cause impending dread or worry around having to do the same thing each year. Instead, trying something new can make holidays feel more refreshing. This can be anything big such as traveling for the holidays with your family or even smaller such as adding a holiday game or new dish to your spread.
Set aside your airing of grievances. Many families have unresolved issues or unrealistic expectations around gatherings. It is best to try and address these concerns outside of holiday gatherings to avoid unnecessary negative outcomes. Rather than discuss these concerns in the throws of holiday planning, try to set aside time to discuss these issues at a later date as not to make it a focal point during the holiday.
Continue your healthy habits. Many people choose to overindulge during the holidays. Try not to change your eating or sleeping habits during this time. Both greatly impact mood and can significantly affect your holiday cheer during festivities.
Manage your time. It is easy to get caught up in all of the planning of festivities that you forget to take time to enjoy these activities. Try preparing for things ahead of time as not to overwhelm you the day of such as delegating chores, cooking/freezing food ahead of time, or take time to complete tasks that are important to you.
Seek professional help. If you find that some of these feelings are continuous or exasperated as time continues, it may be helpful to seek professional help. The holidays can bring up many things for so many people such as loss of loved ones, issues in relationships, or reflecting on disappointments. Talking with a professional can assist with developing skills to best manage these continued concerns.
The Family Institute at Northwestern University brings together the right partners to support families, couples, and individuals across the lifespan. As researchers, educators, and therapists, we work with our clients and PARTNER TO SEE CHANGE.