Prescription for Holiday Stress: Take One Day at a Time
It’s that time of year again. Fall and winter holidays come close together, and as much as we enjoy celebrating festive occasions, making these celebrations happen can be exhausting.
Only this year is different. Financial difficulty, political unrest, family isolation, and a crushing pandemic with many losing loved ones affected due to COVID-19, combine to create a perfect storm of anxiety and stress. Many families don’t know how to engage in healthy conversation about their problems, so instead of being supportive, they add depression and relationship conflict to the list. No wonder our emotional health is taking a beating!
This is where, as a mental health expert in relationships, I go to the Alcoholics Anonymous plan: Take one day at a time. (If things are extra chaotic, there is nothing wrong with taking your day one hour at a time.) I don’t leave it there, because if I did, that would be the end of this message to you. There are things in each of our lives that are good. We need to stay in touch with those things and focus on what we have, rather than what we don’t have. It may sound easy but choosing to think positively (rather than imagining ever-greater catastrophes) is a new habit for many of us. But what choice do we have?
Left to our negative thoughts, we will surely find ourselves in a worse position. The very real trials in front of us are hard enough to address. So let’s be proactive and see what we can do each day to persevere until better times.
Here are some things I have found helpful.
- Have hope. A vaccine is on the way. Reliable news sources tell us there are good results from vaccine trials. This is so positive, and it’s happening much faster than we expected. An end is in sight and we can see a path back to the life we left behind. Each day brings us one day closer to pursuing the goals that have been on the back burner for many months. We can summon our strength to go a bit further and take the necessary precautions a bit longer.
- Continue to adhere to the safety measures that help protect ourselves and others. Wearing masks and social distancing can help prevent infection. Let’s do our part and protect our health and the well-being of our loved ones and our communities.
- Look for the positive things in your life: your home, your children, your pets, a sunset. Making a “gratitude list” can lift your spirits and even lower stressful moods. Find anything that causes a smile. Talk about your goals for the future. There will be one!
- Use your 1,440 minutes each day to celebrate your uniqueness. We each have a special talent. Give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done. Ask yourself questions. What makes you a special person? Hone into what makes your life worthwhile. Strengthen your spirit.
- Remember that people are different. Embrace those differences and accept the challenges in seeing new perspectives. Keep politics an open and safe conversation. We don’t have to agree on everything, but we do have to allow each other to voice our choices. If this is not possible, then simply refrain from political conversation altogether.
- Self-soothing can be extra helpful right now. So don’t speak harshly to yourself. Constructive self-talk can include thoughts like, “I know this is a hard day for you,” “Just focus on doing the most important thing right now,” and “You are keeping it together, and I am impressed.” Make a list of music, movies, TV shows, YouTube videos, blogs, and hobbies that you find comforting. Save a little time each day to surround yourself with things that engage your attention without trying your soul. Embrace humor. Learn a new handicraft, read a book, enjoy documentaries, expand your musical vocabulary, or catch up on classic movies.
- Let your loved ones know what you are thinking and feeling. Tell them you love them, and open your heart to receive love.
- If you need extra help, reach out for it. That might mean signing up for a food bank, reconnecting with a friend via teleconferencing, or finding a counselor. Good self-care is not a luxury right now. It is a necessity!
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Winter Solstice, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or hide from all of the fuss, I want to wish you and your loved one’s peace and joy this holiday season.