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Filed Under: Personal
How To Cope Ahead For The Holiday Season

How To Cope Ahead For The Holiday Season

By Michelle Lunger

The holidays can be a wonderful time for celebration, to reflect, practice gratitude and a chance to spend time with those you love. But for some, it can bring upon feelings of loneliness or overwhelm. Sometimes the holiday season can be especially stressful for those with mental health challenges and for those who are dealing with grief due to the loss of loved ones. Sometimes it can also bring upon tough conversations and the difficulty of setting boundaries with family members- or trying to. Just know, if you find the holidays to be an overwhelming time, you are not alone! So many people feel this way and because of that, we would like to provide you with tools to cope ahead during not only the holiday season, but tough times in general. Be kind, patient, and gentle to yourself. Practice a little bit of compassion and appreciation for yourself and those around you. 

 

Cope Ahead With These Helpful Tips: 

 

  1. The first tool that may be helpful is to practice self-care before and after events, plans, or gatherings. If you have a family gathering, try to practice some self-care beforehand and take it easy. As much as family gatherings are a great time for connecting with those you love, it can also drain your social battery. So give yourself time to prepare mentally and physically. Try not to rush and give yourself enough time to get ready. Have fun with this! You deserve to celebrate and be present with the ones you love without expending all of your energy or burning yourself out.  

     

  2. The next thing you can do along with this is to try to schedule time to hang out with your friends and family. This way you can plan ahead and don’t have to stress about something at the last minute. While you schedule in time with the ones you love, make sure you schedule time for yourself too! Also leaving space for changes or cancellations because sometimes things happen, remember that it is not the end of the world if that happens. But make sure you have a back up plan, even if it is just watching a holiday movie on your own, eating leftovers, and drinking a glass (or more) of wine. 

     

  3. The next tool that may be helpful is deep breathing. When dealing with stressful conversations or difficult family members, plan to step out and take some deep breaths. Whenever I feel overwhelmed in a social situation, I like to go to the bathroom and do some deep breathing. It gives me time to recollect and recharge myself especially when I feel overstimulated. I like to do the 4-7-8 breathing. It can instantly calm your nervous system and ground you. To do this, you breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, and breathe out for 8 seconds. You can do this for a round of four. Please note that for some, it may be a hard technique to hold your breath for too long. If it gets too much, know that you can take breaks or just try to take some deep breaths. Place one hand on your heart and one on your belly to ground yourself and as you inhale feel your chest rise and push your belly out to exhale. You can even cross your arms and tap both sides of your chest to calm your nervous system down, ground you, and stimulate both sides of your brain. 

     

  4. Another good thing to do beforehand is to have important conversations and set boundaries in advance with family members and friends. This can be very helpful to let the other person or people know what you are comfortable talking about and clear the air beforehand. It may not be easy to set boundaries with your loved ones, but it can be necessary to protect your peace in order to feel safe and respected (as much as possible) wherever you are going. Even if the other person does not respect your boundaries, at least you advocated for yourself and got it off your chest so that is something to be proud of always. If you don’t know how to initiate a conversation without triggering someone and get straight to the point, the DBT skill: DEAR MAN can be helpful. Try to plan the conversation ahead of time in order to sort your thoughts and try to de-escalate the situation especially if the topic can be sensitive. 

     

  5. The next thing that you can do, especially if you don’t have anywhere to go during the holidays is to volunteer. You can volunteer at a holiday soup kitchen, a drive for people that don’t have the resources to enjoy the holidays, or visit a nursing home to help out. Doing this not only helps others, but it can help you connect with new people, something bigger, and feel a sense of community and fulfillment. Do some research ahead of time to see if your town has local drives or needs holiday volunteers. 

     

  6. Another thing that you can do, not only during the holidays but anytime things get too busy or overwhelming is to reflect, journal and practice gratitude. It can be hard to find a moment to reflect on all the things you have to get done, but practicing gratitude regularly helps your brain to be accustomed to searching for the positive in everyday situations. How to practice gratitude: 

    https://www.rideethewave.com/blog-1/how-to-practice-gratitude-during-the-holiday-season-and-everyday

     

  7. The next thing you can do to cope ahead is to use your support system and know other resources. If you are struggling, reach out to a friend or family member and let them know. It’s ok to be honest and vulnerable about how you are feeling. And it’s ok to feel exactly how you feel. All feelings are valid and make sure to take care of you before you can take care of others! And if you don’t have anyone to talk to and you are worried about your safety and well being try to reach out to a crisis or helpline. They can assist you with next steps, other helpful resources in your area, and provide a safe space to talk. If you don’t want to wait, you can also go to the hospital as well and there is no shame in that or needing extra support. 

     

    RESOURCES

     

  8. Lastly, check in with those around you. Even if they are struggling or not. Provide a safe space for them and listen. Share these resources if needed. You never know, they may be feeling similarly. 

     

We hope these tips are helpful! Keep these for reference if you ever find yourself feeling overwhelmed or need some grounding. Let us know if you use any of them or have any other useful tips. Take care and be gentle, to yourself and those around you. We hope you enjoy the Holidays and stay safe!