The holidays often are portrayed as a time of year that’s supposed to be filled with joy, family, friends, generosity and kindness. But for many parents, this is a time of year rife with emotional challenges and increased stress.
Emotionally, the holidays remind us of loved ones who may have died or relationships we may have lost through divorce, separation or relocation. Stress can be related to many things such as:
- Finding the money to buy our children the gifts they hope to find on Christmas morning
- Preparing, attending or carpooling children to the added events that the holidays bring
- Keeping up with the regular demands of life, which may include work and/or school
How to Manage the Stress of the Holidays
Set Realistic Expectations and Practice Saying “No”
Set expectations for gift giving and involve your children by teaching them about the value of money and money management. Create a budget and stick to it. Also, set expectations for yourself and practice boundaries by saying “no” when necessary. It’s okay to limit your holiday tasks and delegate duties to others who are willing to help.
Focus on Family Traditions
Some families have holiday traditions and rituals that they practice every year. It’s important to participate in these, as they often increase family bonding and improve overall mood. If you have recently lost a loved one or have other life changes, know that it’s okay to adjust your tradition as needed. Change is good. If you don’t have a tradition, consider starting one.
Keep in Mind the Holidays Are Not a Competition
Even though social media may make holidays feel like competitions, they’re not. They’re about family bonds and creating memories with your loved ones. Focus on that instead of who got the nicer gift or whose family’s light display uses the most bulbs.
Remember December Is One of 12 Months
It doesn’t need to be the “most wonderful time of year” for you. If you expect absolute holiday magic, you are bound to be disappointed. Take the pressure off the season and enjoy whatever comes. “Don’t sweat the small stuff…and it’s all small stuff.” (Richard Carlson, PhD, 2000)
Consider All that You Have to Be Grateful For
There will always be someone who “has more” than you, but that’s not what is important. Keeping this in perspective may help you appreciate the uniqueness of your holiday experience. Enjoy holiday activities with your family and consider opportunities that your family can do together to help brighten someone else’s holiday season, such as activities like volunteering at a homeless shelter, food kitchen or pantry, nursing home, taking part in a holiday adopt a family gift program, etc.
Take Care of Yourself
Pay attention to nutrition, exercise and sleep. Taking care of yourself is always important, but especially during this time of year when there can be more stress, access to unhealthy food choices and additional distractions that could impact your sleep. Take walks, eat healthy foods, limit your alcohol consumption, follow a sleep routine and do things you enjoy.
Seek the Help of a Professional
Holidays can trigger depression, anxiety and stress. There is hope and there is help. Take steps to manage these things. If you aren’t sure if you have symptoms of depression or anxiety, take a complete a free, confidential, online screening for depression, anxiety and alcohol or reach out to a health care provider for assistance.
Bryan Mental Health Emergency Department provides emergency mental health care/crisis assessments to determine if hospitalization is needed. This service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at Bryan West Campus at 2300 S. 16th St. Learn more about Bryan Mental Health services for children, teens and adults here.
David Miers, PhD, LIPC
David Miers, PhD, LIPC, is the Counseling and Program Development Manager with Bryan Medical Center Mental Health Services.
Don’t hesitate to call and speak to a counselor. Get the support you need.
Bryan Counseling Center: 402-481-5991
National Suicide Helpline: 1-800-273-8255
Crisis Response Line in Lincoln (operated by CenterPointe): 402-475-6695