Despite the never-ending flurry of merry salutations, the holidays can be emotionally challenging — if not downright depressing. Here are a few practical ways to take care of yourself during this time of year.
Set a Budget. When you’re out shopping, it’s so easy to cave to “spending sprawl” – irresistible gifts that seem to call your name, obliterating any control you thought you had before you left the house. Truth is, you can’t buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Instead, you might want to make something for someone (cookies or a homemade ornament), organize a gift exchange and set a spending limit, or donate to a charity in a person’s name. Another way to save money and infuse your gifts with meaning is to barter. For example, you might offer to weed someone’s garden in exchange for organizing your pantry. Design a website in exchange for painting your house. The list goes on and on. This way, you strip the season of its suck-your-wallet-dry tendency and replace it with the true meaning of the season, which is not about things at all.
Learn to Say No. Saying yes to a holiday party or event when you really want to say no can breed resentment, which is never a good thing. Give yourself permission to decline invitations. Your friends will understand. Besides, a little alone time during the holidays might help you enjoy the things you do participate in that much more.
Step Outside Your Comfort Zone. If you find yourself longing for companionship or are in a new city where you don’t know anyone, select some holiday events in your neighborhood or city, take a deep breath and show up. Chances are, you’ll meet others who might be in the same situation and make some new friends.
Carve Out A Bit of “Me" Time. December is month that is notoriously busy, but you don’t have to be. Do something that celebrates you: get a massage or facial, read a book that’s been on your list, put on your favorite music and enjoy a cup of tea or take a walk and look at the stars. You’ll feel refreshed and centered.
Move Your Body. If you’re an exerciser, don’t abandon your routine. Keep up the good work. Getting your heart rate up and sweating not only helps get rid of cortisol, the stress hormone, it also triggers the release of endorphins – neurotransmitters that interact with your opiate receptors in the brain to generate positive feelings. If you’re not an exerciser, don’t worry. A simple 20-minute walk can help reduce cortisol and alleviate anxiety. But that’s not all. Walking can also help reduce your risk of heart disease and strengthen your bones, among many other health benefits.
Acknowledge Your Feelings. If you’ve lost a loved one or recently gone through a divorce or break up, accept that feeling sad and lonely is normal. It’s okay to cry, get angry and grieve. As difficult as these emotions may be, getting them out might be the best remedy for healing. If you feel you need a little extra help, you can always try light therapy. Like exercise, these light therapy devices release endorphins by emitting UV-free light. Your mood and sleep pattern will improve, and best of all, they’re affordable. Varilux sells them starting at $40. However, if you feel that you’re really spiraling downward, pick up the phone and call a friend, a relative or a professional. Just being able to release what you’re feeling and hearing someone’s voice can be comforting and dilute what you thought was an impending disaster.
Remember: Keep your chin up. The holidays are temporary and will be over before you know it. Soon you’ll be into a new year with a fresh start.