If Black Friday, Cyber Monday and other holiday hype have you feeling frazzled, you are not alone.
“Lots of people are overwhelmed this time of year, and some even dread the holidays,” said psychologist Dr. Bernard Davidson at Augusta University’s Medical College of Georgia.
The demands of the season often include shopping, cooking, travel, houseguests, family reunions, office parties, more shopping and extra financial burdens. Holidays are supposed to inspire celebration, friends and fellowship, but if you’re not careful, the good times can quickly turn into huge burdens.
“One of the main causes of the holiday blues is having unrealistic expectations,” Davidson said. “We sometimes set our hopes so high that the slightest setback nearly ruins things. This can be exacerbated by overdrinking, overeating and fatigue.”
Davidson recommends the following six ways to ward off the holiday blues:
- Be practical. Remember that the holidays are not about everything being perfect. Keep expectations modest, and try not to compare yourself to others. Also, consider 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 decline others without guilt.
- 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. 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.
- 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 or a soothing cup of tea, reading a book or another favorite pastime. 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.”