Managing the Holiday Season with Grace and Humor

Compiled by a group of WTRS colleagues

It’s the time of year when many of us celebrate traditions and holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah, Solstice, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Eve, as well as other spiritual traditions, personal rituals, or even the tongue-in-cheek Festivus.

Whether or not you participate in these traditions, the shorter days and holiday bustle can affect your mood and energy levels — face it, holiday time can be downright stressful! To help alleviate the stress, we’ve gathered some ideas to help you get through the season in reasonably good cheer:

  1. Get some physical exercise. In the moist and mild Pacific Northwest, you can go outside most any day, and “destination walking” is a great way to sneak some exercise into your day.
  2. Manage your expectations around your to-do list, realizing that you may not be able to get it all done. Know your limits and set yourself up for success by estimating how long each task will take and not overbooking yourself. It really is okay to say no.
  3. Keep things simple, leaving room for joy.
  4. Be mindful of your boundaries and if you need to, get support for setting them. Pressure from family to participate in more activities than you have energy for can be especially challenging. If it feels too stressful to stay with relatives, consider staying in a hotel. It can be a real lifesaver to have a quiet room to retreat to at the end of a busy day. Taking these steps can help keep your visit short and sweet rather than long and dreadful!
  5. Make a budget and stick to it so shopping doesn’t overwhelm you financially. Consider giving gifts of time or handmade gifts.
  6. Be aware of the need to recharge:  schedule in some downtime, and try to get enough sleep.
  7. If you’re hosting a gathering, let people help you. Doing so gives you more time to relax and enjoy your guests.
  8. If traditional ways of celebrating the season don’t resonate with you, invent your own activities and traditions. Or consider enjoying a Jewish Christmas — Chinese food and a movie!
  9. This time of year can be depressing for many; maybe they’re affected by the short, dark days, are struggling with the magnified family dysfunction holidays can bring, or are missing loved ones far away. If you know someone who’s having a hard time, reaching out, even in simple ways, can make a big difference. And if you’re alone and feel left out on Christmas, make the day about treating yourself — to your favorite meal, to a creative project, to a day in the mountains.
  10. You can dampen the effect of rampant commercialism at this time of year by staying out of stores and turning the TV to mute during the deluge of ads. Consider shopping at open-air markets, artist studio sales, or craft fairs.
  11. Take any opportunity to laugh.

The above article expresses the opinions of the author and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of other members of the Women’s Therapy Referral Service.