I love having guest bloggers sharing interesting and informative content on Re-Discover Washington. This post comes to you from Yael DiPlacido, owner at Life Balance Counselling, LLC. Yael is licensed as a Clinical Social Worker in the State of Missouri. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Social Work, a Master of Social Work and Certification in Clinical Social Work with Families from St. Louis University. Yael is also a good friend of mine, who has a wonderful blog. In this post she offers some practical advice on how to keep our sanity during the holiday season.
So it has begun. The madness; the obsessive hunt after the best deal, the right gift, the most creative surprise for your loved one…and with it the traffic, the growing credit card bill, the family dramas, the anxiety…the stress…the holidays. No matter who you are and what you celebrate, or don’t celebrate at this time of the year, if you are living in the USA, one way or another you will become exposed to the madness. Although you may not be able to completely escape it, you could take some steps to minimize the stress. My work in the mental health field has given me a wide view of the not-so-jolly side of the holidays. Today I would like to address just two of the common struggles that people experience more intensely during this season – financial stress and holiday blues – , and to offer some ways to help ourselves through them.
Financial stress. As the holidays become more commercialized, so is the demand for “stuff”. We want to be pleasing to our loved ones, and during this season, many of us choose to literally pay a high price for the pleasure of that gift-opening moment. As the economy suffers, many of us find it difficult, if not impossible ,to afford the same level of holiday expenses as before. This can really kill the holiday cheer. So here are some things you can do:
- Make a realistic budget. Going deeper into debt just to look good in front of your friends and family may simply not be worth it.
- Be honest with yourself and others. It is ok to tell your friends, co-workers, and family something along the lines of…”times are tough, so this year I will be expressing my love to ya’ll with home-made cards”.
- Prioritize your expenses. Not everyone in the family has to get an extravagant gift.
- Have a gift drawing or a Secret Santa game. Everyone in the family draws a name of one or two people. Then, you are only responsible for buying one or two gifts.
- Come to an agreement with your family members on the value of the gifts exchanged. Set it on something that is fair and affordable to everyone.
- Be creative. There are many other ways to tell people you are thinking about them during this time of year, apart from store-bought gifts.
- Stay away from temptation. Shopping malls, holiday catalogs, TV and other media commercials, are telling you to buy-buy-buy. Do what you can to shift your attention elsewhere.
- Remember what it is all about. It is NOT about “stuff”. ‘Nough said.”
Holidays Blues (loneliness, grief, depression). This time of year, we are bombarded with media images of happy, close-knit families (often gathered around a cozy fire, a festive holiday dinner table, or a brand new Acura). Everyone is full of love and cheer, even the most annoying relatives turn endearing, and all family conflicts are resolved right in time for Christmas Eve dinner. This is how the movies and commercials tell us things could be or should be. But movies are fantasies, and in life, many people find their reality painfully contrasted with these “shoulds”. Those of us who have experienced a recent loss of a loved one through death, separation or divorce, may be experiencing the loss more acutely during this season. Those who have experienced a traumatic event during the holidays in the past often become triggered by constant reminders of that event. Finally, some people would rather eat glass than spend a minute with their family of origin, and many people find themselves completely alone this season. Here are a few suggestions on how to deal with the holiday blues:
- Count your blessings. More than ever, it is important to keep a mindset of gratitude. Thinking of the things that are going well in our lives, helps our minds stay focused on the positive and away from gloom and doom.
- Send notes. Spend just a few minutes a day writing and sending a note to someone. It could be a childhood friend you haven’t seen in a long time, an old teacher, or someone who was good to you at some point or another. Let them know what they mean to you. It could be as simple as “thinking about you this season.” DO NOT EXPECT ANYTHING IN RETURN. The acts of writing and sending the notes will not only cheer the other person, but will also make you feel more connected. Feeling connected will lift your spirits.
- Stay away from images and movies that contrast with your reality. You know what kind of movies make you feel like something is wrong with your life. Go for themes that have nothing to do with you.
- Give yourself lots of TLC. Self care is extremely important. Even more so, during periods of high stress. So, focus on eating healthy, getting lots of rest, doing things that are relaxing and fun, and don’t neglect your therapy.
- Give your time and energy. Nothing feels as fulfilling as giving to others in need. There are lots of volunteering opportunities during this season. Non-profit organizations, churches, elderly neighbors…there is a need for your company, skills, and talents on every turn and corner.
- Stay warm. Lower body temperatures correlate with increased sense of loneliness.
- Sunlight chases the blues away. Cold weather and shorter periods of exposure to light contribute to Seasonal Affective Disorder. Experts recommend to keep your blinds opened and spend as little as 20 minutes a day outside for a natural mood-boost.
- Say no to drugs and alcohol, especially around your least-favorite relatives. The recovery community has a great saying about it: “There is no bad situation that alcohol and drugs can’t make worse”.
If you are going through loss and grief during the holidays, you could find practical advice and support at http://www.griefshare.org/holidays.
If you are going through divorce, good information and support could be found at http://www.divorcecare.org/holidays.
You can reach Yael at 314.660.7473 or email@example.com. Visit her website here. Life Balance Counseling is part of the Washington Healing Arts Center. Yael also provides Individual, couples, family and group therapy. To follow Yeal’s blog, click here.
It would be great if you would add your own suggestions to this list. What helps YOU keep your sanity during the holidays? Please share and inspire in the comment section below.