FRANKLIN — Stress, anxiety and depression go hand-in-hand with the holidays for some people. The holidays present a dizzying variety of demands — parties, baking, cleaning and shopping, just to name a few.
You can minimize the stress that comes with the holidays with some practical tips. Putting these simple tips to use could help you enjoy the season more than you thought you would.
• Acknowledge your feelings. It is OK to feel sadness or grief, or feel overwhelmed, especially if you have lost a loved one or you cannot be with loved ones this year. If you need to cry or express your feelings in a healthy way, allow yourself to do so.
• Reach out. Seek out community, religious or other social events if you feel lonely. Volunteering to help others is a great way to lift your spirits as well as build new friendships. These new friends will serve to broaden your universe and diminish your stress.
• Be realistic. Life is not a movie. The holidays don’t have to be, and in all honesty most likely will not be, perfect. Families change and grow, in turn changing traditions and rituals. Choose a few to continue; let go of ones that no longer bring you joy; and be open to creating new ones, which requires flexibility on everyone’s part.
• Set aside differences. The holidays are a time to try to accept family members and friends as they are. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion, or truly let go of the issues if possible.
• Stick to a budget. Happiness cannot be bought. Before heading out to shop for food or gifts, decide exactly what you can afford to spend and then stick to that. Creating debt will only increase stress.
• Plan ahead. Plan specific days for all activities — shopping, baking, visiting friends, wrapping gifts, etc. This will help prevent the last-minute dashes to the store for forgotten ingredients or gifts. Plan your meals out and make a list before heading to the grocery store. This will also help avoid those impulse buys which can blow your budget.
• Learn to say no. Friends and coworkers will understand if you can’t take part in every project or activity. Agreeing to something you cannot afford, or have no time for, will increase your stress level. It’s OK to say no.
• Keep your health on track. Holidays do not translate to free-for-all. By maintaining your healthy eating habits and exercise routines you will keep your stress and guilt levels under control. This includes getting the proper amount of sleep each night.
• Take a break for yourself. Make time just for you. Even if all you can carve out is 15 minutes a day to be completely alone, take it. This may help to refresh you enough to deal with everything else. Clear your mind, slow your breathing and restore your mind by doing something that makes you happy. Try reading a book, take a walk at night to look at the stars, listen to your favorite type of music — if it makes you happy, then allow yourself that time.
• Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best attempts, you may still be feeling persistently sad, anxious, unable to sleep, oversleeping, feeling irritable and hopeless and unable to deal with routine chores. If these feelings last, or interfere with your ability to live your life the way you want, speak to your doctor or a mental health professional. There is no shame in asking for help.