Done shopping for gifts? Have everything planned out through New Year’s Day?
That's a step in the right direction, but for many people the most stressful part of the holidays isn’t just the preparation.
According to Dr. Barbara Bernstein, director of training and education at the Mental Health Association of Westchester, the demands of shopping, parties, family reunions and house guests can all be sources for tension.
The stress cannot only cause depression, but it can lead people to develop headaches, drink excessively, over-eat or have difficulty sleeping.
Carol Campbell, co-founder of the Leave The Light On Foundation, advised caregivers not to take on more duties than they have to during the holidays. The Leave the Light on Foundation is a nonprofit support group for caregivers that meets at the Hudson Valley Hospital Center.
“What I recommend, if you fall into a caregiving role, is to delegate some of the responsibility that you would normally take on during the holidays,” Campbell said. “Don’t feel that you have to be the one trims the tree or buys all the decorations on the Christmas tree. Don’t try and do everything by yourself. That just leads to more stress.”
Here are some tips that the Mental Health Association offers for coping with stress:
- Keep expectations for the holiday season manageable. Try to set realistic goals for yourself. Pace yourself. Organize your time. Make a list and prioritize the important activities. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. Do not put entire focus on just one day (i.e., Christmas Day). Remember it is a season of holiday sentiment, and activities can be spread out (time-wise) to lessen stress and increase enjoyment.
- Remember the holiday season does not banish reasons for feeling sad or lonely. There is room for these feelings to be present, even if the person chooses not to express them.
- Leave “yesteryear” in the past and look toward the future. Life brings changes. Each season is different and can be enjoyed in its own way. Don’t set yourself up in comparing today with the “good ol’ days.”
- Do something for someone else. Try volunteering some time to help others.
- Enjoy activities that are free, such as driving around to look at holiday decorations; going window-shopping without buying; making a snow person with children.
- Be aware that excessive drinking will only increase your feelings of depression.
- Try something new. Celebrate the holidays in a new way.
- Spend time with supportive and caring people. Reach out and make new friends or contact someone you have not heard from for a while.
- Save time for yourself! Recharge your batteries! Let others share responsibility of activities.