The winter holidays will be here before we know it. For some, this season is filled with joy and the heightened awareness of life's blessings as people look forward to spending the holidays with friends and family. Also during this time of year, painful emotions such as grief, sadness, anxiety, and loneliness often intensify, along with the suffering related to unresolved trauma.
For many, the holidays are a financial, emotional and physical strain. Deeply rooted family dynamics replay themselves, people regress, and there is only so much time in a given day to get things accomplished. How susceptible are you to the relentless holiday pressure to be happy, load up your schedule with events, and consume merchandise and sweets? What are the holidays typically like for you, and what can you do to help make them as peaceful as possible?
Here is some information, along with a few things you can do to help maintain a sense of balance as you approach the winter holiday season:
If you are a regular exerciser, keep it up! We KNOW that that regular exercise helps to reduce stress and boost mood.
Minimize consumption of sugar and processed foods, while also allowing reasonable amounts of "fun foods" occasionally throughout the week. Think about adding in a few healthier snacks like fruits and veggies throughout the day.
Consider taking a minute here and there to practice slow and gentle breathing. Think of slowing down your breaths to no more than six per minute, while elongating the out-breath. This particular type of deep breathing calms the nervous system and helps to induce our innate relaxation response.
Meditation is another way to induce the relaxation response. If you are someone who already meditates, try to maintain your schedule. If meditation is new to you, consider taking a class in meditation or go to www.tarabrach.com click on "meditations" and then click on "featured basic meditations."
Read more about the relaxation response here: http://www.apa.org/monitor/2008/10/relaxation.aspx
Sleep is essential to your physical and mental health, so make it a priority. Avoid excess caffeine to get through the day. If you must do late night shopping, gift wrapping, or cooking, try to allow yourself to have a break the next day so that you can rest. Here is more specific information on getting a good night sleep: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/sleep/how-to-sleep-better.htm
While traditions have significant value and are important, it is beneficial to try to remain flexible around traditions. Expect that there will be bumps in the road as you travel through your family traditions. It is also often beneficial to make changes to old traditions and to begin new ones.
If lists are helpful to you, make one... or a few. Make a notation on each item that highlights whether the particular task must get done, or it's just something that you would like to do. More often than not, we can't get everything done... allowing for this is important!
Simply allowing yourself to sllooowwwww down while transitioning from one activity to another, eating a meal, driving, interacting with others, time with pets, etc... can help to relieve some of the "pressure" associated with holiday time.
Last, managing your expectations of the holidays, and those of others is important and essential. You've probably learned that life is not perfect, neither are the holidays. Kindly reminding yourself of this is important and helps to relieve the pressure.