The storybook picture of holiday time involves loads of happiness, family fun, and nostalgia. However, the amount of time, energy, mental capacity, and sacrifice that goes into planning all of that is often overwhelming! The age of social media might make it seem easy, but behind the filters many are feeling at their lowest. During this time of the year, it’s especially important to not only listen to our body’s stress cues but communicate well when we (or someone we love) feels less than jolly. We can all agree that telling someone stressed or anxious to “calm down” has worked exactly 0 times, so here are 10 mood boosting tips for handling holiday stress that will help us achieve more routine levels of calmness and joy.
For some, the excitement of seeing their family over the holidays fills them with glee. For others, like myself, it fills me with dread as it dredges up trauma. Years ago, I had enough of doing things I didn’t like, just because everyone else did. My spouse and I decided we would reach a compromise.
For example, on Thanksgiving we skip dinner with others but make it a point to join for dessert. A quiet meal together meets the hubbub of sugar highs, and in the end it’s a perfect balance. On Christmas Eve, we oblige family requests to gather and participate in the agenda. Christmas day, however? That has become a day of staying in pajamas, opening gifts at our leisure, eating a late breakfast of bacon and cinnamon rolls, then lounging around and enjoying our gifts – just the two of us! On Easter, we don’t personally celebrate so we choose to skip get-togethers entirely. As an adult, these choices are up to you! Isn’t that freeing?
Due to the new Department of Transportation (DOT) policy, Emotional Support Animals are NO longer allowed to fly in airplane cabins for free. However, Psychiatric Service Dogs are eligible.
Each holiday also brings numerous small traditions we created as a couple. We have learned to identify the things we love about the seasons and build upon that. If we eventually have kids of our own, we will adjust to meet everyone’s needs. There’s nothing wrong with going small or having more intimate traditions, if all the glitz and glam just aren’t for you. There’s also nothing wrong with enjoying the experience of a “Griswold” sized celebration! Everyone is different, and the point is to do what’s best for YOUR situation.
Easy, natural, and free mood boosters probably sound awesome, especially during the holidays. According to studies, walking or running for just 15 minutes every day can greatly reduce both depression and issues with anxiety. Not able to do either, due to health restrictions or other limitations? I have several incurable illnesses, so I can certainly relate. I prefer the simple act of using 15 minutes for positive mantras or short meditations, either in the shower or before I go to bed. Neither exercise or meditation is a magic cure, so don’t expect to go from Grinch-mas mode to Buddy the Elf simply by getting outdoors, working that treadmill, or reciting positivity. The idea is that healthier lifestyles help us to stabilize our unhealthy mindsets, even if it’s only one part of the battle.
As much as we may love our closest friends and families, it comes as no surprise that some can also be demanding. Whether it involves too many holiday parties, financial expectations, or traditions you’re only part of out of obligation, your mental health and wellness should always be considered as a top priority. Creating healthy boundaries doesn’t mean that “bah humbug” is your mantra!
Saying no can actually be what’s best for mind, body, and soul. If you aren’t spending time doing things that you love or giving way beyond your means, it may be time to change things up. Politely declining a few invitations isn’t the end of the world, and despite what society might have you think, an explanation isn’t needed. No means no, and those who can’t respect their loved ones’ wishes could probably use some self-adjusting too!
This is a good rule of thumb all year round, but many tend to feel more anxious if online too much near the holidays. Whether it’s the current culture of comparison, seasonal depression, nagging loneliness, or these things combined; feelings of not doing, being, or buying enough can be terrible and all-consuming during fall and winter seasons. It’s hard to remember not to compare our behind-the-scenes to everyone else’s highlight reels! What you see often masks realities of what is. There are plenty of benefits to social media, don’t get me wrong, but we all reach a point when it gets to be too much. Luckily, technology comes with off-switches and temporary social app deletions, until we’re in a better mindsets to scroll through our online communities.
In America, we can also become highly desensitized to the importance of actual, physical interaction (with other humans or even a furry companion). When we make virtual interactions our regular practice, we are fostering greater (even subconscious) levels of disconnectedness. At the same time, if you are physically with people you love then embrace those moments. Don’t waste them with your face in a screen. Life is too short. Snap that pic for memory sake, but consider posting it to your social media platforms later. Once you enter the vortex, it’s hard to look away!
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that falling behind or becoming more unorganized than usual can drastically shift our demeanors. Feelings of panic can drown out the purpose of why we’re scrambling around at all.
Keeping a planner or calendar and filling out deadlines for what needs done can help us stay on track. You can even plan gift shopping throughout the year rather than at peak time. If you see a sale in July, grab it! Spreading out the task list can relieve a lot of pressure.
It’s also a good idea to set limits in advance on the number of commitments you are willing to make. If you have a lot of friends or local family, the holiday party invitations can pour in faster than you might be able to manage. Decide, prior to the mail arriving, which events would be a “yes” and which fall into a definite “send our regrets” category.
What else can you add into the calendar that will help and not harm? Schedule yourself a massage, pencil in a soak in the tub, or book a counseling session for those few weeks you anticipate the stress monster to roar the loudest. Be prepared for worst-case, but remember there is hope for the best!
On that note, planning ahead includes your spending habits (even during off-seasons). If expectations for your annual seasonal fun come with big price tags, it’s never too early to set aside money and use it when most needed.
It’s also important to ask ourselves what should take priority. Contrary to popular, commercialized beliefs, the holidays aren’t just about the gifts and gourmet meals. If short on time, maybe store-bought cookies or Boston Market dinner plates will work out just as well. If short on funds, it’s not mandatory to commit to gift swaps or every non-profit donation request. Take care of the necessities and try your best not to stretch your resources too thin. Otherwise, you may be feeling holiday stress and anxiety far after the big day is done.
On the flip-side, if you’re in a position of financial means then you might find being intentionally generous is also stress relieving! There is something to be said about stepping outside of our own bubbles to extend empathy and compassion to those around us. Acts of giving can help bolster a sense of meaningful purpose. For instance, we lost a beloved family pet during the Christmas season, and to honor her memory we like to give small gifts to the animals in our neighborhood. The emptiness we feel in her absence is lessened by bringing smiles to others, just like she always did. There are lots of way to make a difference in your community! If you plan to do this, still remember to include a line item in your budget.
While I have the biggest sweet tooth of anyone I know, I definitely notice a decline in overall stamina when I binge on too much sugar. Everything in moderation? That’s another story. If safely able to indulge, then don’t deprive yourself! Enjoy the candy, cakes, desserts, and other goodies, but not at the expense of your energy levels or oomph. You also don’t want to have lower defenses when it comes to natural immunity. Excess junk will tend to do that, while healthier options may boost them and keep you from spending your holidays feeling run-down or unwell.
Our “holiday cheer tanks” need fuel to keep going. Running on fumes gets us nowhere, or else gets us there so exhausted that we can barely function. Attempting to stick to a half-decent sleep schedule and not foregoing our typical tasks in lieu of holiday errands may help keep up energy levels.
When we feel more accomplished, our stress levels drop. When it comes to doing laundry, preparing for your work week, and getting a jump start on weekly commitments, don’t let them fall to the wayside. Squeezing in all the extras at the expense of your household, your job, or your sanity can add to your anxiety and make you less productive, when all is said and done.
You’re just as important as everyone else! It isn’t selfish if you splurge a little on yourself, even if that splurge is just a fancy coffee drink and a face mask from the dollar store. But with all the great deals going on prior to Black Friday, you never know what you may find that fits into your budget!
Another great way to treat yourself is by spending time with your pet(s)! They offer unconditional love, and petting an animal is scientifically proven to reduce stress. There are so many mental, emotional, and physical benefits that regular pets as well as assistance animals offer. Go ahead and pop some popcorn, grab a cozy blanket, scoop up your furry companion, and watch a movie together. It might sound simple, but it’s the simple things that make the biggest impact.
Perhaps the most important mood-boosting strategy is to process what you’re feeling during these uncertain times. Whether you feel overwhelmed from the holidays or still haven’t felt like yourself since COVID-19 tried to take us all down, save the stuffing for the turkey! Talk or write out your frustrations, whether with another person or with a pad of paper. If therapy isn’t for you, journaling can be just as therapeutic.
The benefits of an Emotional Support Animal certification and a Psychiatric Service Dog certification are drastically different. Fortunately for you, American Service Pets’ network of active board certified doctors can help you find the right path to certification. To find out whether you need an ESA or PSD letter, take our easy, three-step Pet Owner Survey!
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