Taking Care of Yourself During the Holidays

Image: Matthew Verdun, M.S.

By Matthew Verdun, M.S.

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We all get the messages that the holidays are supposed to be a time of joy, togetherness, and love but we don’t always feel that way. Many people have caring families, even those can become overwhelming. Some people have families that are not supportive, causing pain when they try to be close to them. In addition to family stresses, holidays bring about parties where consumption of too much alcohol or other things can cause us problems or financial stresses related to gifts and events. If any of these apply to you, here are some things you can do to stay grounded and connected.

First and foremost, know your limits. Think about your limits with finances, time, and stress. How many people should you buy for and how much can you spend on gift-giving? Do you enjoy giving because it makes you feel good or look good? If you tend to give too much because it feels good, consider whether or not you should give smaller items or find a different approach to feeling better by giving (more on this later). Talk to your family or significant other about realistic limits on how much to spend on each other or on family, friends, and parties.

If you love going to parties and love being included but know there are only so many hours in a day, it may be necessary to decide which parties are required and which are optional. Even social butterflies need to rest their wings occasionally. If you must see everyone you know it may be a good idea to decide which events you are going to see them at.

If you know an event will be stressful you may want to pre-plan your exit. This is true for stressful family events or parties you can’t back out of. If you know your family is going to cause stress it may be good to have strategies to avoid certain topics, consider planning what you will talk about, ways to quickly shift the subject from a sensitive or divisive topic. It may also be good to talk to someone you trust and know will be there about ways to avoid or divert stress or drama.

If you know you tend to enjoy drinks or other substances a little too much make plans in advance Do you have a designated driver or will you take Uber or Lyft? If your friends encourage excess drinking you can make a few good excuses in advance (cutting down because you don’t want to gain weight, some innocuous medication that interacts with alcohol, feeling bloated, etc.). If you find yourself having difficulties because of your drinking you should consult a specialist.

If you feel lonely during the holidays find new activities you can try out. People often volunteer during the holiday season, which is great, but studies show that giving back throughout the year promotes happiness and well-being. Consider continuing volunteer activities after the holidays when those organizations are struggling to find help, this can lead to increased happiness and provide you an opportunity to connect with other people. You can also consider meet-ups or other activity groups. These provide an activity with a readymade group of people with whom to interact.

Finally, if you are feeling depressed or anxious and are worried about your mental health reach out to a professional in your area. Your insurance provider maintains a list of professionals that take your insurance. If you do not have insurance, you can reach out to local mental health organizations or your county mental health agency for referrals. Many cities and counties also use a 211 telephone number or website for social service organizations. If you are having an emergency call 911, if you are having thoughts of suicide call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 800-273-8255.

This article is for informational purposes only, please consult a mental health professional regarding your specific situation or mental health needs or substance use.

Matthew Verdun, M.S.
California BBS License Number: LMFT 85437