5 Ways to Reduce Holiday Stress
This Thanksgiving I was in bed with the flu. And I missed out on my family’s traditional Thanksgiving celebration—forty aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews at my uncle’s house. I couldn’t leave the house for five days because I have four physical illnesses—one of them is a neuromuscular autoimmune disease similar to Multiple Sclerosis called Myasthenia Gravis (MG). When I have complications with MG, my Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome usually flares up. Did I forget to mention that I also have Bipolar II? Don’t get me wrong—I had a great Thanksgiving despite my obstacles. The truth is: Most of us will face obstacles this holiday season. But I believe that we can all reduce our stress and enjoy Hanukkah, Christmas, or Kwanza despite these obstacles.
- Expect something to go wrong—Sometimes our best plans are interrupted by things like the weather, uncooperative guests who don’t RSVP, dishes left in the oven too long, and conflicting schedules. That’s okay. Just because you get thrown a curveball (or two or three curveballs), doesn’t mean your holiday is over. When I spent all of Thanksgiving at home, I decided to put on makeup even though I was expecting no guests. That made me feel good. Then, I spent some time thanking God for my blessings and watching a General Hospital marathon on SOAPnet featuring vintage Thanksgiving episodes. Later that night, my 25-year old niece surprised me with a visit. After our usual family celebration ended, she came over and spent a half hour with me—talking about faith, family, and makeup. Years from now, I will remember our time together as one of my best Thanksgivings ever.
- Realize that “magic” can still happen when our plans go awry—I used to host a lot of parties. I remember several years ago that I was hosting an intimate dinner party for five friends. Unfortunately, I got locked out of the apartment because my keys wouldn’t work. (A week later, management decided to replace all the keys in the building.) Anyway, the point is that I got home 20 minutes before the party. I had no time to cook the great meal I had planned. So we ordered pizza. And we had a blast. Imperfection doesn’t mean that “magical moments” can’t happen.
- Remember that everything doesn’t have to happen during the holidays–There are only 24 hours in a day. Not everyone that matters in your life will have identical work schedules. If you have to celebrate Christmas with a friend in January, it’s still Christmas because you’re together. That’s what counts. If you send a New Year’s card to your aunt because you didn’t have enough time to write a Hannukah or Christmas card, it’s still special.
- Schedule some “me time”—In all the madness of holiday shopping and planning, do at least one thing for yourself while you have a break from school or work. I like to go to the movies at least once during the holidays. Even if your “me time” is spent at home, you can still have fun. Put aside your homework or PDA, turn off the iPhone or Blackberry, pop in a DVD, and microwave some popcorn!
- Use light therapy (if prescribed) if you have winter depression—Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a problem that affects many Americans, both those with and without mood disorders. SAD can keep many Americans from experiencing the joy of the holidays. The shorter days and less exposure to sunlight can catalyze depression in autumn and winter. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to stay this way. Light therapy (staring at a lightbox that emits light similar to natural sunlight everyday for 10-20 minutes) has changed many peoples’ lives--including mine--for the better. For more information on this wellness tool, check out this Flipswitch podcast, 3 Ways You Can Fight Winter Depression or SAD. But be sure to consult your psychiatrist and therapist first before using one.
Happy Holidays, everyone!