The holiday season is supposed to be a time of celebration, togetherness and joy but for many, the holidays can bring added stress, anxiety and sadness. Money, social situations, family tension, isolation, grief and conflict are all issues that can easily come to the forefront during this time so it is helpful to have some strategies in place to manage these added pressures.
Spending large amounts of time with family can often be cause for increased anxiety levels. And while it can be difficult to predict how your family are going to interact, you can put some strategies in place to prepare you for the possibility of family tensions.
If you are going to an event (or hosting an event) where you know the possibilities for tension between family members or guests is high, be prepared. Try to think about all the possible scenarios where difficulties could arise and prepare your response. It can also be helpful to enlist a supportive family member or friend who you can talk to if difficulties arise.
There are some things to remember when you approach social events that can help to combat stress and anxiety:
- Avoid difficult or controversial topics. If there is a particular topic that your family or friends often argue about, try to avoid speaking about it.
- If the controversial topic does come up, have a distraction prepared.
- Try to avoid sitting next to someone who you know are likely to cause tension.
- Use relaxation techniques – such as slow deep breathing – to cope with anxiety or tension.
- Try not to drink too much as alcohol can contribute to stress and anxiety levels.
The end of the year – and the beginning of a new one – is often a time where difficult conversations arise. If you find yourself in a difficult conversation or wanting to start one yourself, it is helpful to remember the following:
- Difficult conversations are not easy for anyone, especially at this time of year.
- Choose the right moment for the conversation.
- Try not to be defensive.
- Frame your sentences in a way that uses “I” statements, “I know it has been a busy time for you, but I ______”
- Always approach these conversations with respect and kindness.
Going It Alone
There are many people for whom the holidays bring feelings of loneliness, isolation or grief.
Being alone during the festive season can be difficult, especially when it seems that everyone else is enjoying time with family and friends. There are, however, some strategies that can help to combat loneliness throughout the holidays and help you to feel more connected:
- If you are separated by distance, try to connect with family and close friends. Facebook, email and other social networking tools make it easy to keep in touch with friends and family who are living far away. Make sure you stay connected when you can.
- Volunteering on Christmas Day is a great way to feel connected to people in your community.
- Look for community events that are happening in your area such as carols or local markets. Getting out and interacting with the community can help to combat feelings of isolation.
- If you are alone and grieving on Christmas Day, make plans in advance so that you can celebrate in your own way. It can be cooking yourself a special meal, going for a long walk or attending the local church service.
Inevitably, this time of year brings its own stresses and strains. Putting strategies in place and being mindful about how you are feeling are the first steps to managing anxiety and enjoying the celebrations. Put your health first and remember to be kind to yourself.
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