The holidays are a special time of year filled with wonder and excitement. However, with all the hustle and bustle, they can quickly become stressful, anxiety-inducing, and even depressing. Holidays can be full of nostalgia and endless expectations. It’s a time when we can be overwhelmed with family get-togethers, yet our hearts can ache for those who cannot be there. Our schedules start to overflow with events, and our healthy habits tend to go out the window as quickly as our budget for the season. With all these demands and constantly changing feelings, it can be difficult to get through the holidays, let alone enjoy them. Let’s look at several ways to make this season less frightful and more delightful.

Make a Plan

Schedules and emotions are always easier to manage when you have a plan. Prioritize your list of things that need to happen and things you’d like to accomplish. Take it one week or even one day at a time. Plan out your boundaries as well. It’s important to know when to say no. Having a plan doesn’t fix everything, and we all know the best-made plans don’t always go accordingly. However, when we have an idea of what to expect, we can manage our reactions much better.

Set Realistic Expectations

The holiday season can make us want to do ALL the things. We set our expectations high and often fall short and feel defeated. When making your plans, think about making them as realistic as possible. Don’t focus on having the perfect holiday, focus on doing your best. Sometimes celebrations look different than they have in the past, which is okay. Think about ways you can honor old traditions or start new ones. Before filling up your schedule and your shopping cart, be sure to set realistic expectations with your time and your budget.

Acknowledge Your Emotions

Some days are just tough, especially around the holidays. We feel the pressure to keep up. We’re missing loved ones deeply that are no longer with us. We’re overwhelmed by all our obligations. And we’re trying to do it all with a smile. Emotions are real, and they need to be acknowledged. It’s normal to feel sad or tired. Just because it’s the holiday season doesn’t mean life isn’t still hard. Take time to acknowledge your emotions and when things get a little too tough to deal with on your own, make sure you have support from friends, family members, or a mental health professional.

Make a Gratitude List

How quickly the holiday season can make us focus on having more. We need more time, money, gifts, and cookies, and we feel flustered when we can’t keep up. We can find so much more joy this season when we change our focus to being thankful for everything we do have. Take a moment to make a gratitude list. Write down and reflect on all the things you’re grateful for today. Take it one step further and list why you’re thankful for each. Encourage your family to do the same and see how attitudes can shift instantly.

Practice Some Self-Care

The holidays can get so busy that we forget to continue healthy habits. We turn our packed schedule into an excuse for not caring for ourselves. Make sure you’re still practicing self-care all season long. Prioritize your efforts toward healthy eating and exercise. Make sure you’re still getting the sleep you need. When your body asks for a break, take a few moments, and practice several cycles of deep breathing. Remember, we can care for others much better when we care for ourselves too.

Hit Pause, and Take a Look Around

When you’re feeling overwhelmed and anxious from the holidays, hit the pause button. Before you bury your emotions and rush off to your next task, take a minute to really stop, look around, and enjoy the moment of the holiday season. Try the 5-4-3-2-1 Mindfulness Exercise. In this exercise, you find five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. Did you notice the smile on a child running past you? Maybe you could feel the warmth from your sweater or hear a holiday tune. Did you smell a festive candle or taste peppermint candy? Allow these things to bring you back into the present moment.

The holidays can be hard when we rush past the joy and forget to experience the wonder. They can be even harder when we feel anxious, sad, or miss someone dear. These emotions are natural and normal to feel. And it’s always okay to ask for help when you need it. Remember, the holidays aren’t meant to be perfect. They’re meant to be experienced.

Written by BWS Lead Health Coach- Kelly Schlather, BS, ASCM – CEP

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