Tips for Peace of Mind During the Holidays
With the holiday season here, financial burdens, extra chores like cleaning, shopping, decorating, and entertaining are just a few of the reasons stress can get the better of just about anyone. At a time of year when we wish for peace on earth, many of us are hoping to find some peace of mind.
The Canadian Mental Health Association suggests these 10 stress-busting tips to help people cope with the added pressures and demands on our time. By following these common sense strategies, you’re more likely to have a less hectic, and a much healthier holiday season.
Plan ahead. When entertaining, keep it simple and make meals that can be prepared ahead of time, partially prepared and/or able to be frozen. Try to complete things in advance so you can relax and visit with family and friends.
Organize and delegate. Have a ‘family meeting’ and make a commitment to share tasks. Rather than have one person cooking the whole meal, have family and friends bring a dish. Children can help with gift-wrapping, decorating baking or addressing cards. Try to focus on doing what’s really important to you and your family.
Beware of overindulgence. Alcohol is a depressant so try to keep consumption to a minimum. Too much food can make you feel lethargic, tired and guilty.
Get plenty of exercise. Exercising as a family to work out excess energy and stress is a great activity to serve as much-needed breaks during hectic weeks.
Stay within budget. Finances are a great stressor so set a budget and stick with it. A call, a visit or a note to tell someone how important he or she is to you can be as touching and more meaningful than a gift. Some activities around the holiday season are free, including driving around to look at holiday decorations, going window-shopping, going skating or taking a walk in the park.
Remember what the holiday season means to you. While holiday advertising creates a picture that the holidays are about shiny new toys and gift giving, remember that this season is really about sharing and time spent with loved ones. Develop your own meaningful family traditions.
Help others learn about shared social responsibility. Attend diverse cultural events with family and friends. Help out at a local food bank or donate clothes and toys. Encourage children to make gifts or cards for friends and relatives so the focus is on giving rather than buying.
Include others. If you have few family or friends, reach out to neighbours. Find ways to spend the holidays with other people. If you’re part of a family gathering, invite someone you know is alone to your gathering.
Put fun, humour, affection and “break time” into your holidays. Fun or silly activities, games or movies that make you laugh, hugs, playing with pets, and quiet time alone or with a partner are all good ways to reduce stress.
Get into the light. Research suggests that elevated depression around this time of year can have a lot to do with the weather, especially lack of daylight. So soak up the sun when you can. If your dampened mood carries into the New Year, you may want to pay a visit to your doctor or mental health professional.
Above all else this holiday season, help one another and share your problems. Trying to cope alone can become overwhelming. Mental health problems are often encountered by those who want to make the holiday season perfect for their family, but don’t have the resources to meet those needs. Talk things through with family and friends and remember, that while we all wish for peace on earth this holiday season, we shouldn’t overlook the importance of peace of mind.
Dealing with Holiday Grief
The holiday season can be especially difficult for those of us who’ve lost someone close to us recently, or at this time of the year. With all the messages of family togetherness and joy, the emptiness left behind when someone passes away is a harsh contrast to what society seems to “expect” us to feel. Below are tips to help you or someone you know get through a potentially difficult time:
Talking about the deceased person is okay. Your stress will only increase if the deceased person’s memory is allowed to become a landmine that everyone tiptoes around.
Things won’t be the same. It’s normal to feel at odds with yourself when dealing with grief. Do not isolate yourself, but limit your involvement when you need to.
Don’t let other people’s expectations dictate how your holiday will unfold. If you do want to attend holiday functions, make sure you know your limits. Leave early, arrive late, drive alone — do whatever you need to do to help yourself.
Seek support. Talk to your friends and family about how you feel. Many communities offer support groups for people who are grieving. Being around people who know what you’re going through can be very comforting.
Plan a special time to celebrate the memories of the person who died. Some families develop creative rituals like decorating a miniature Christmas tree at the cemetery, donating money to the deceased person’s favourite charity, singing their favourite seasonal song, reciting a special prayer before the evening meal, or even just lighting a candle. Symbolic gestures like these can help families validate their feelings of sadness and overcome the guilt of enjoying special occasions.
Take care of yourself. Stress, depression and bodily neglect are not a great mix at any time of year.
Think about starting new traditions. Planning something totally different is not an insult to the memory of a loved one and can be a positive way to ease some of the pressure.