AUGUSTA, Ga. – Feeling overwhelmed about the holiday season? You’re not alone.
“Lots of people are overwhelmed this time of year, and some even dread the holidays,” said psychologist Dr. Bernard Davidson in the Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University. “One of the main causes of the holiday blues is having unrealistic expectations. We sometimes set our hopes so high that the slightest setback nearly ruins things.”
Don’t let the Grinch steal your joy. Instead, be ready for the hustle and bustle with these holiday helpers Davidson offers:
1. Be practical. Remember that the holidays are not about everything being perfect. Keep your expectations in line and try not to compare yourself to others. Also, think about past holidays. Weren’t the most memorable moments the ones that were not perfectly scripted or posed? So relax and stay focused on the real meaning of the season – quality time with family and friends.
2. Plan ahead. Procrastination – whether related to shopping or event planning – can make tasks seem more difficult. Draft a plan to accomplish what you need to do during the holidays and stick to it. For example, plan to buy a certain number of gifts per week, and have your family pitch in with party planning.
3. Time things wisely. Battling crowds in stores and on the roads can lead to frustration, anger and stress. Instead, take advantage of early hours at malls and other stores to get shopping done before work, and benefit from no crowds and no lines. If you are traveling, try to leave as early as possible to avoid holiday traffic jams and make sure you carry food, water and an emergency kit just in case you do get stuck in traffic.
4. Just say no. During the holidays, it’s easy to feel pressure to overcommit to volunteering, entertaining and attending events and other activities. Know your limits and make a commitment not to overextend yourself. Choose the activities that are most important and let the others go.
5. Be charitable. Some of the greatest joys can be found in giving, Davidson said; so look for ways to help out those who are less fortunate during the holidays. There are many charitable giving opportunities during the holidays, like volunteering at a soup kitchen or hospital, making dinner for a shut-in or adopting a family who could use a little financial support.
6. Prepare for stress. If you know that you are prone to depression and anxiety, recognize that the stresses of the season, if left unchecked, could cause these feelings to escalate. Be sure to take appropriate measures to ease stress, such as setting aside “me” time for enjoying a relaxing bath, a soothing cup of tea or reading a book. It’s also important to maintain a regular exercise regimen, get plenty of rest and eat and drink in moderation during the holidays. You will feel much better for it once the holidays are over.
“We tend to want to overdo everything during the holidays,” Davidson said, “but we need to resist this temptation, or we are surely leaving the door open for disappointment.”
Dr. Bernard Davidson is an associate professor of Psychiatry and Health Behavior at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University. He has served on the faculty as the director of Family Therapy Training for psychiatry and psychology residency training programs since 1989. Previously, he served as associate professor and associate chair for the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Texas Tech University from 1980-1988. He is a licensed psychologist and has research interests in personality styles and medical student education. He has been awarded several grants and has been published on many topics.