As holly jolly as the holidays may be, it can also be a time of a lot of stress and anxiety. Picking out holiday gifts, dealing with in-laws, and working the holiday rush is enough to make anyone pull their hair out, let alone COVID-19 making its first appearance at one of your holiday dinners.
You can still enjoy the holiday cheer by balancing your time and efforts to minimize stress and anxiety. Use these tips before the holiday blues get to you. And if the blues descend upon you? Sit down today and make a plan for what will help you deal with things and feel better.
Make a Plan
Planning your holidays reduces last-minute scrambling, which can get you worked up. If you leave your shopping and decorating for the Eve of the first day of Hanukkah, Christmas Eve, Kwanzaa, or any of the other holidays you add to your schedule — you’re asking to be in trouble.
If you are not ready for these last December holidays now — you are last-minute. I strongly recommend that you consider leaving off your schedule everything that you can. If you haven’t put up a tree — don’t. Order your holiday meal if possible — don’t cook it yourself. You can go simple — especially this year.
Use your online calendar to plan your last-minute holiday activities so you can adjust to surprises. Even now that you are down to the last-minute — take some time today — and put a solid plan in place. Make the decision that you will roll with the punches. Decide that you will be okay with the late sendings or late arrivals and late everything — gifts, burnt food, and snowy weather conditions.
Focus on Yourself
Spending so much time thinking of others and doing things for them is certainly an act of goodwill, but it can be exhausting and draining. Take time for yourself these last few weeks of the year to unwind and treat yourself after a long year.
Go ahead and grab yourself a present, and plan a day in your Calendar to cozy up with some hot cocoa and your favorite holiday movie — even one evening will recharge your batteries. Light some candles and soak in the tub with some quiet music. Dedicating a day or two entirely to yourself helps you unwind amidst all the holiday hustle and bustle.
If you haven’t been exercising — skip feeling guilty about it right now — and spend a couple of minutes each day for the rest of the year (12 days) and dance-like-no-one-is-watching — to Feliz Navidad until you snap out of — whatever is eating at you.
Build a schedule that promotes healthy behavior at least until after the first of the year. Getting enough sleep, sunlight and following a healthy diet will do wonders for your anxiety levels year-round. Plan to take a short walk from now until January 2 — and breathe in and out and “think and thank” (gratitude thoughts — seriously, this helps).
If you feel behind right now — drop off all unnecessary activities from your schedule and take care of yourself. Put a reminder on your Calendar to start earlier next year — but don’t worry about that now. I have even done Christmas in July and bought needed gifts that early to cut back on stress. Determine to do better next year — but don’t beat yourself up now. Now is not the time for that — now is the time to deal with stuff, be good to yourself, and get through the rest of the year.
Ask for Help
If you are facing the holidays from this point on, alone — think about reaching out. Think of a neighbor, friend, or relative that may be in the same position as you are and invite them over. Most grocery stores have already prepared meals if you don’t feel like cooking. Pizza-for-Christmas is not the worst thing in the world. And take it from me, in most cities — pizza places are open. Call today and find out which ones.
Ever driven past McDonald’s on Christmas (or any other holiday)? They are packed with cars circling the building. Let yourself off the hook — tons of other people are in the same position as you are. It’s okay.
If you need to put someone to work for you — think Google Shopping, Instacart, TaskRabbit, or DoorDash. Even many individual stores have delivery now. Utilize these services.
Right now, many college kids are home, and lots of schools are out because of COVID. You can usually get even a junior high or high school kid to run to the store for you, run the vacuum and move a couple of things. Stick on a mask, provide them one if needed — and quickly get some chores out of the way today to relieve stress.
If you don’t know anyone — contact another neighbor, someone at your church, synagogue, or mosque, and see if one of their children can help with your last-minute chores for a little extra cash.
Please don’t go through this holiday season alone. The more help you get with holiday activities, picking out presents, and enjoying the festivities, the less anxiety you’ll experience. If you aren’t done with shopping — hop on Amazon and finish today. If you have a local Trader Joe’s — they usually have last-minute everything. Run out today, get everything and be done.
If you find yourself struggling with a certain aspect of the holiday season, reach out to someone for help. Family and friends can lend a hand with holiday dinner or give you insights on what you are struggling with. Sharing responsibilities makes your burdens seem a little lighter.
Unplug Your Devices
Social media provides an excellent platform for sharing holiday cheer and family memories. However, it can also inspire the “fear of missing out” as you witness others having a blast with their own holiday festivities. Have you seen the meme with the dinner table set with computer screens at each place? If that is you this year — please have a chuckle at how absurd many aspects of our culture are, especially at present.
For the time being, consider a social media fast. Focus on yourself and those around you, not the fun everyone else is having that might look perfect on the screen. The more present you are in the moment, the more enjoyable your holiday will be and the less anxiety you’ll experience.
Stick to a Budget
Holiday spending can work anyone up — watching your bank account drain while thinking about bills and expenses is a classic formula for anxiety. Easy to say — hard to do.
Sticking to a budget allows you to fit Christmas purchases into all your other expenses. You’ll have peace of mind knowing that you can still make ends meet and can spend without remorse, as long as you stay within the budget you set.
If you’ve already blown your budget — it’s okay; it’s done. You’ll do better next year. Again, write this on your Calendar for next year. Next year, you’ll save a little all year to relieve your stress. Remember, from now to the end of the year — simple, simple, simple.
Learn to Say No
You don’t have to be a people-pleaser every second of the holidays. It’s OK to decline any and all invitations to benefit your mental health. Your close friends and family will understand when you need to take a step back — and if they don’t understand — it’s their issue, not yours. And hey, you don’t have to explain anything, especially this year. And despite the naysayers — COVID can be your excuse for everything — if you feel you need one.
Be sure to fill your online calendar with plenty of fun activities, but don’t overdo it. Learning the art of saying no can help you build the perfect balance of fun and rest that helps maintain healthy levels of stress and anxiety.
A major cause of anxiety this season is COVID-19. Wanting to have fun while also staying safe is a delicate balance, one that might get you worried whenever you leave the house or invite over the company.
Whenever you participate in a Christmas activity, do your best to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines. As long as you’re social distancing and staying clean, you can enjoy your holiday guilt-free, knowing you’re doing everything in your power to keep yourself and others safe.
Look for Ways to Volunteer
Looking outside of yourself can get you thinking of others instead of yourself. Your energy will be diverted toward helping others, and your anxiety will be replaced by goodwill and giving back. Ask local organizations for ways to give back to the community if you can’t think of any ideas.
In most cities, the local soup kitchens are open — just show up and they will let you help. Just go in and look for someone in charge. Usually, the soup kitchens have some sort of greeter — walk up to them and tell them you are there to be put to work. They are usually so overjoyed — you’ll know you made the right decision.
Be super careful this year with the COVID issues. Maybe pick up a few pairs of disposable gloves for the dirty jobs (have them in your pocket) and take your own apron.
Volunteer work shouldn’t overcome your life, as you should most definitely be focusing on and prioritizing yourself and your mental health. But it’s amazing how getting out of the house and doing physical labor will help your mental health.
If you are not physically able to work at the local soup kitchen or shelter — see if you can help at a local call center helpline. Helplines usually want to train you ahead of time — but right now, there is a lot of desperation, and there are a couple of places that will train you over the phone.
Looking outward is a good change of pace and will provide a good feeling as you see others’ lives improve thanks to your efforts. Determine that you will let yourself feel that good feeling for what you have done to help others — and if you can only help you — that’s okay too.
Seek Professional Help
There’s nothing wrong with seeking professional help when anxiety is getting the best of you. A healthcare professional can help you manage your holiday time to reduce anxiety by giving an expert pair of eyes to your situation and possibly prescribing a helpful solution.
Professional help will likely need to be set up ahead of time — but there are always helplines. Look up these numbers now and have a list ready — on your nightstand — that you can quickly utilize if needed.
If you deal with true depression — and not just seasonal blues — please seek help somewhere. For a last-ditch effort — call a neighbor, friend, or relative. Think of one of the AA and NA mottos — don’t get too tired, too hungry, too lonely — these situations can make you vulnerable.
With professional help by your side, you’ll be better equipped to tackle all of your work, holiday and family responsibilities. Even the local health food shop will likely have some suggestions on how you can reduce stress. The point is to ask — please reach out. People really do want to help you be okay.
Contact your physician early Monday if you feel like you would greatly benefit from their assistance in the next couple of weeks.
The holidays should be the most wonderful time of the year — but sometimes they suck — and that’s okay because you can deal with this. You are stronger than you think — please keep telling yourself that.
Make some plans to get out and about. Most years, you can go visit a few shut-in people — but this year, many of the care centers aren’t allowing “drop-by” visitations. Plan those types of activities next year for a great pick-me-up.
But DO make some plans for happiness for yourself in the next couple of weeks — and put these plans in your Calendar — set reminders, if needed. You can make your holiday bright even in this bizarre year — maybe you’ll find a whole new holiday tradition!