IT’S BEEN CALLED “THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR,” BUT FOR MANY OF US, THE WEEKS BETWEEN HALLOWEEN AND JANUARY 1ST ARE ANYTHING BUT. With less sunlight and more demands on our time, energy and financial resources, self-care goes by the wayside. Add to that unrealistic expectations and less-than-optimal family dynamics, and it’s no wonder 38 percent of Americans report feeling more tense and anxious in the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. Not to worry: We’ve rounded up expert tips to help you navigate the season's biggest stresses with your health and happiness intact.
SO…YOUR TO-DO LIST IS A MILE LONG.
HOW TO DEAL:
GET YOUR PRIORITIES STRAIGHT “We often put items on our to-do lists without prioritizing,” says Debra Kissen, Ph.D., executive director of the Light on Anxiety CBT Treatment Center in Chicago. But giving equal weight to tasks and obligations—for example, “buy wrapping paper” and “visit aunt in a nursing home”—can be anxiety-provoking. Review your to-dos, then list them in order of importance and urgency.
DIAL IT DOWN Let go of the idea of having a Hallmark-perfect holiday and see if you can scale back even slightly—say, snail-mailing holiday cards only to relatives you're close to and sending e-greetings for everyone else. No one will notice if you serve store-bought latkes, or if a section of the tree is missing lights. “Keep your expectations at a reasonable level and try to enjoy the spirit of the holidays,” says Patricia Farrell, Ph.D., a psychologist in Tenafly, NJ.
JUST SAY NO Sure, you can swing by a co-worker’s cookie swap instead of going to Pilates or watch the neighbors’ kids on your only night off. But at what cost? “There’s a reason ‘no’ is in our vocabulary,” Farrell says. “Overextending yourself will do nothing for you or anyone else.”
PACE YOURSELF With all the holiday prep— cooking, cleaning, shopping, traveling and tying up loose ends at work—it can feel like you’re running a marathon. Take your cue from endurance athletes and plan pit stops when you can rest and refuel. Scheduling non-negotiable time for yourself—be it a session with your therapist, a coffee date with a friend, a mat session or just a catnap—will help you go the distance.
SO…YOU’RE NOT FEELING MERRY AND BRIGHT.
HOW TO DEAL:
ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR FEELINGS “By telling yourself you should feel happy or connected to family, you’re just setting yourself up for misery,” Kissen says. But it’s okay—and not uncommon—to feel anxious or blue this time of year. “One doesn’t have to be happy to have a meaningful holiday.”
ANTICIPATE YOUR TRIGGERS “Ask yourself when you’re most likely to go down the rabbit hole,” Kissen says. “Then come up with a plan of attack.” If crowds and commercialism make you cranky, skip the busy stores and order online instead. Does scrolling through peoples’ Insta-feeds stir up feelings of isolation or inadequacy? A “social media diet” may help to keep sadness—and FOMO—at bay.
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