Tag Archives: realistic expectations

9 tips for avoiding the holiday blues

christmas tree holiday blues depressionThere is no getting around it – the holidays are stressful. We have posted before about learning to say “no” to holiday stress and how to survive relationship stress during the holidays.

We are overloaded with responsibilities, and we tend to have higher expectations for ourselves and others from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. What can you do to keep that stress from turning into the holiday blues or depression?

First, let’s take a look at the common triggers that can lead to the holiday blues:

  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Financial concerns
  • Family conflict
  • Lack of sleep and fatigue
  • Bad memories
  • Unhealthy choices

Here are 9 ways to combat these holiday depression triggers and keep your spirits bright during the holidays:

Set realistic expectations
It’s easy to get caught up in the pressure to create the perfect holiday. You want to find the best gifts, decorate everything just so, prepare a wonderful meal and be a gracious hostess. By trying to do it all, we put extra stress on ourselves – and our loved ones – during the holidays.

If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed by your to-do list and no longer enjoying the process of preparing for the holidays, it may be time to cut back. Ask your family what they like the most about the holidays and concentrate on making those areas special. Enlist their help and create memories together.

Create a holiday budget
Overspending during the holiday season can also put a damper on your spirits. It’s harder to enjoy the holidays if you are feeling stressed about your finances. Make a budget that includes decorating, food, gifts, travel and even New Year’s Eve plans. Then, stick to it.

Plan for family conflict
If you know there will be conflicts at Christmas or New Year’s gatherings, prepare yourself and your immediate family ahead of time. Be ready to offer a neutral response to diffuse an argument. Then, remove yourself from the situation by offering to help out in the kitchen or spending time with the kids. If the idea of family gatherings seems more stressful and depressing than positive and enjoyable, you may want to consider making it a brief visit, staying home or creating a new holiday tradition.

Get some sleep
Holiday activities and planning can cut into your sleep schedule. You may be spending more evenings attending social events. You may stay up late to wrap presents or address your holiday cards. Studies show that there can be a link between depression and sleep loss. Make sure you are getting enough sleep so that you feel rested and ready to tackle the day.

Learn to grieve
If you have lost someone close to you, the holidays can be especially difficult and you may feel more down than other times of the year. You may be angry at the person for leaving you alone during the holidays. On the other hand, you may feel guilty if you enjoy yourself. Give yourself permission to grieve and also give yourself permission to enjoy the holidays.

Keep up good habits
t’s easy to get derailed from your healthy habits during the holiday season. Try to maintain your good habits, such as eating right, exercising, sleeping and managing stress. Just because you overindulge at the dessert table doesn’t mean you should give up on your goals. Start fresh the next day with your regular routine.

Exercise is one of the first things to go in the holiday shuffle. Be sure to keep to your regular routine – it will help you ward off stress and the holiday blues. Try not to use alcohol to cope with holiday depression. Alcohol can intensify your emotions and leave you feeling worse. Also, be safe on New Year’s Eve.

Get some sunshine
The dark, dreary days of winter may also affect your mood during the holidays. You may experience seasonal affective disorder or SAD. Approximately 10-20% of people in the US may experience a mild case of SAD that can be compounded by holiday stress. Try to get some sunshine if you can, or you may want to talk to your doctor about light therapy.

Give back
While it’s great to volunteer or donate to charity any time of year, it can help put things into perspective during the chaotic holiday season. Make it a family tradition to volunteer and help those who are having a difficult time. Or, choose a charity together and make a donation.

Remember what matters
It’s easy to get caught up in the over-commercialization of the holidays. Remember what’s important during the holiday season. Spend time with people who make you laugh and smile. Stick with simple traditions so you aren’t overwhelmed by planning and expenses.

Focus on what is meaningful to you and your family, and you will create a fun, memorable holiday season. What are your favorite holiday traditions?


9 tips to surviving holiday relationship stress

Holiday table relationshp stressI love the holidays – that magical time from Thanksgiving to New Years. At the same time, a little part of me dreads the holiday season.

It can be one of the most stressful times of year, especially when it comes to our relationships. We have more tasks to get done, we’re pulled in multiple directions, we want to make everything perfect, and we tend to lash out at those closest to us.

Here are 9 tips to make sure you maintain healthy relationships and have an enjoyable holiday season this year:

Have realistic expectations
The biggest mistake many of us make is wanting to have everything perfect and create the best holiday ever. Whether it’s the food, the decorations or the holiday gifts, you probably have something that is your favorite part of the season. I have a friend who puts up eight Christmas trees in her house every year. My mother enjoys cooking the holiday meals for our family.

If it’s something you enjoy doing, then keep up the tradition. If you find yourself stressed out and snapping at everyone, then it may be time to tone it down. More than likely, your family doesn’t care about it nearly as much as you do. They would be happy with less extravagance if it means you are able to fully enjoy the holiday season.

Ask for help
I am a control freak. I am the worst at asking for help when I get overwhelmed by all the things I need to accomplish. Your family and friends would rather help you than see you stressed. You can actually spend quality time with friends and relatives by asking them to pitch in with holiday traditions. Kids especially like to feel they are part of the festivities. You may even be able to create new traditions.

Say thank you
When you’re in “get it all done” mode, you may forget to show others your appreciation. Go out of your way to thank your spouse, kids, family members and friends when they do something for you. You may assume they know they are appreciated, but it’s always nice to hear “thank you.”

Set your priorities
Decide what is most important to you. I used to make handmade Christmas cards to send to family and friends. I loved creating the card design and putting them together. I would get together with friends, and we would visit and work on our cards. At some point, I began to dread doing my holiday cards. The stress of getting the cards done outweighed the joy of sending cards, so I stopped doing it.

You have to prioritize what is most important to you and make sure you have the time to do it all. If you don’t, then cut back. Your spouse and children will be much happier about living in the same house with you.

Divide and conquer
During the holiday season, we have more events to attend. You may have work commitments, gatherings with friends, and family festivities. On top of that, you and your partner may not necessarily like attending each other’s events. Your spouse may have an annual party with his old college friends, and you may like to trim the tree at your grandparents’ house. It’s okay to go to events by yourself if it will eliminate relationship stress. Or, you can take separate cars so that one of you can leave earlier.

Make family time count
It’s so easy to get caught up in running everywhere and fitting in as many activities as possible. You may forget to include some downtime into your schedule. Plan an evening to hang out at home watching movies with popcorn and candy. Go out to eat and give the cook a break. Have family game night. Your family should know they are the most important part of the holiday season.

Learn to say no
It’s hard for many of us to say “no,” especially during the holiday season. You feel like you’re a bad person if you don’t help out with the annual office party, neighborhood charity event or holiday program at your kids’ school. You can say no. Think about your priorities and decide what you can do without sacrificing quality time with your family and your own happiness. If you feel anxiety instead of joy and excitement, then politely decline.

Spend time with friends
Our friends can give us a reality check. Set aside time to hang out with your good friends during the holiday season. Not only is it fun, but they will also be honest with you and help you decide what matters and what to let go. And, spending time with friends is just good for your health.

Give yourself a break
If you start to feel overwhelmed by your to-do list and responsibilities, give yourself a break. Set aside some time to do something you enjoy. You can take a walk, go for a drive, window shop or play with your kids. Just give yourself a break so that you can relax and recharge.

The stress of the holiday season can strain our relationships. Cut yourself some slack and remember to take the time to balance your commitments with maintaining healthy relationships with your family and friends.