When you think about the holidays coming up, do you feel a sense of warmth and excitement? Dread and impending doom? Perhaps all of the above. The holidays are a mixed bag for many people, which may include long lines at the airport, kids’ inconsistent sleep schedules, old arguments resurfacing with family, or feeling lonely at the holiday work party. It’s no wonder unhealthy habits often rear their ugly heads during the holiday season.
What can we do to stay healthy during this time?
1. Remember What’s Important to You
Take some time, even a few minutes, to reflect on what you want most out of this year’s holiday season. Is it quality time with your immediate family and maintaining financial health? Taking time to re-connect with your spouse and sustaining your physical health? When the holiday season ends, what type of experience would you be most proud of creating for yourself? From here, you can make steps toward things you want to keep and things you may need to change or let go. “Things do not have to be perfect. By letting go of the need for things to go a certain way, we are better able to stay in touch with what the holiday season is really about,” says Dr. Michelle Lopez, a psychologist at CSAM who specializes in treating anxiety and mood disorders.
2. Communicate Your Expectations
Once you know what you would like for yourself, start communicating your expectations early. If you have a significant other and/or children, consider discussing each person’s expectations so that you can discuss what is realistic and desirable for your family.
Even if others don’t want exactly what you want, it will be easier to negotiate and compromise so that each person gets at least some of their needs met. This might also help to determine how much time you need for yourself or when you need time together.
3. Plan for Self-Care
People have their helpful and less helpful ways of coping with the stress of the holidays. Dr. Lopez suggests taking a proactive approach: “Rather than responding when unhealthy behaviors show up, take action early by developing a prevention plan! Identify other people in your life who also want to work on resisting unhealthy habits such as overeating, overspending, or even isolating during the holidays. Connect with those individuals and share your goals with each other.”
This might mean planning a day before traveling to prepare and a day after to recover. Or perhaps packing your athletic shoes to go for a walk after a family meal. By including others in your plans, you are more likely to engage in those behaviors.
The Center for Stress and Anxiety Management is here to help! Click here to speak with Dr. Lopez or another professional at the Center for Stress and Anxiety Management.