By Beverly Flaxington – Holidays are meant to be filled with cheer, goodwill and peace on earth to all, right? We all spend our time accepting party invitations, being with those we love and giving thanks for all we have, don’t we? If you answered a resounding “NO!” and think these statements apply only to the holidays appearing in the Hallmark commercials, you are not alone.
Anxiety about the impending holidays can turn into depression during the holiday season for many people. Some want to “just get through” the holidays, and others use it as a time to grieve for the good times they are not having now, and may never have had.
For some people, when they have lost a family member or dear friend or who might find themselves alone at the holidays, it’s a reminder of what is missing. It opens up new grieving wounds. For others who overspend or feel they “should” be spending more, or getting more, it is a time to think about what they don’t have and what they are missing. Some see people running off to parties and wonder why they don’t have more friends, or why they aren’t invited. For others, the dread of getting together with family members they don’t like keeps them up at night.
If this sums up your experience of holiday time, and you have anxiety even reading some of this thinking about what’s coming, it’s time to stop holiday anxiety in its tracks before it turns into a full-blown depression. The fact is that we have more control over our response to, and experience of, the holidays than we often exert. We feel at the mercy of these negative thoughts and feelings, and allow them to take us away without questioning their veracity. Instead, we have many opportunities as the holidays approach to allow a different experience this year. Here are five tips for ridding your holidays of anxiety and depression and bringing more joy into the season, and it all starts with making a plan now. You know the anxiety is likely to come, so don’t be caught unprepared. As part of your plan:
• Get good at positive self-talk: “This is a point in time.” “This does not define my life.” “Who wrote the rulebook on holidays anyway? I can write my own rulebook.” “This year I will manage differently.”
• Get your finances in order. Put away the money you need for gifts in advance. Don’t spend more than you can afford. It really IS the thought that counts, and if you have people in your universe who expect more than you can give, use your self-talk – “This is their problem, not mine. I am thoughtful and considerate. It’s too bad they choose to feel badly.”
• Manage your stress and practice calming techniques. Learn to breathe and to focus on your breath. The mind can’t focus on two things at once, so when you feel yourself getting pulled into negativity, choose to breathe deeply.
• Stay away from the naysayers. If you usually participate in an “I hate the holidays” refrain with friends or family members, exit this year. Turn off shows that upset you. You have a choice about the company you keep – internally and externally. Choose wisely.
• Remember that This Too Shall Pass. Holidays come every single year. They are here for a period of time and then they leave until next year. If you have to manage through by making this your mantra, do so. It’s a temporary place in your life. Don’t let it become your life.
Watching your self-talk, having a plan and taking steps to manage your thoughts and emotions differently could lead to a happier, less anxiety-ridden holiday season this year.
Beverly Flaxington (thehumanbehaviorcoach.com) is the two-time bestselling and Gold-award winning author of “Self-Talk for a Calmer You” published by Adams Media.