3 Tips for Navigating the Holiday Blues
The holiday season is quickly rolling around and despite the notion of widespread joy, it isn’t cheerful for everyone. A lot of people experience the “holiday blues” where we struggle with feeling overwhelmed with heightened stress, worry, anxiety, sadness, and an overall feeling of unease. During the holidays we are often faced with or reminded of difficult circumstances with family, grief, and/or loneliness.
Sometimes we do not have anyone to share the holidays with and are reminded that sometimes our loved ones have passed away and sometimes the family members we do have are not the easiest to be around. This could look like a family that is unable to meet your needs, a family that is overcritical, or a family that is chaotic or dysfunctional. Just because we are related to someone doesn’t take away that sometimes being around them is painful and unhealthy for our mental health.
As a licensed therapist working in the mental health field, the holiday season is one of the highest potential relapse times of the year for addiction and mental health-related symptoms. It can be really tricky to navigate so many overwhelming feelings and complex family dynamics.
Here are a few helpful tips to help you navigate through the holiday blues:
Tip 1: Think of Boundaries You’d Like to Set
It might sound cheesy, but boundaries can actually help. Boundaries for holidays spent with family could look like: advocating or ensuring you will have enough alone/quiet time or setting limits to the time you will spend visiting.
Sometimes others who lack their own boundaries struggle to receive ours, so if your family struggles to accommodate your needed time or space, make sure you do have a supportive friend, family, or therapist you can reach out to for support on how to conquer this could be a great tool.
A boundary you set with yourself can also look like an expectation. If my Aunt always asks invasive questions, I can probably set that expectation off the bat that the likelihood of that happening is high. If my mom drinks too much, I can expect that too. Work backward from there: “What do I need if/when XYZ happens? How can I be there for myself?”
Tip 2: Stick to Your Normal Routine as Much as You Can
Maybe your normal routine consists of waking and going to sleep at a certain time or exercising a certain amount. I recommend doing as much as you can to mimic what is normal to you.
Make sure to (if you can) get adequate sleep and get your body moving. Whether that is going for a walk (weather permitting) or getting away to a gym or workout class. The more you move, fresh air/sunlight you get and are around other people (strangers, even), the more we can get your endorphins going and reduce some of the intensity of loneliness and stagnation.
Tip 3: Amp up Self Care
When I think about self-care, I think about whatever it is (small or large) that gives me a warm feeling of ease. Self-care starts with setting limits for yourself and others but also typically involves a series of things that are special and soothing to you.
Music is a great tool that I use for myself whenever I can’t seem to get out of my head. Singing and reading too. I think of it this way: if you’re reading and following the words down the page the only thing in that moment you can focus on is... reading. If your mind is still wandering, it may be a good opportunity to phone a friend if you can.
Self-care can be having your favorite meal, your favorite tea or coffee, or sitting and intentionally breathing or meditating. You don’t need to be an expert at self-care, you just have to go into it with the intention of showing up for yourself.
If you are currently working with a therapist, it may be helpful to create a plan for how to approach the holidays and how to prepare in case you are in crisis. The more initiative you take now, the more it is likely to help improve your circumstances this holiday season, regardless of where and with whom you may be.
If you feel you would like additional support in creating your holiday plan or would like to get started on your own therapy journey, I invite you to give me a call today at 954.391.5305.
If you would like to learn more about me (Alex Steiner, LCSW) and my services, please visit my bio here. I look forward to hearing from you!