You’ve done all the shopping, so it’s time to enjoy what Christmas is really for – spending a relaxed time with your loved ones. Except that this is sometimes easier said than done. Here’s a guest post with expert advice from our Sheer Woman of the month and mental wellbeing expert Margot of YourMind on how to stay sane this holiday season.
Rather than seeing Christmas as the best time of the year, some of us dread the holidays because they stir up painful memories or feelings. They can also mean extended periods of time with our families, which can be tricky if family dynamics are difficult.
However, there are things you can do to make this holiday season better. Here are our top tips:
1. Go easy on the alcohol
It’s tempting to indulge in champagne and eggnog, especially when it feels like it’s the only way to drown out the bickering or unpleasant comments from family members. However, remember that, in addition to making you say things you shouldn’t, alcohol is a depressant, and if you are feeling slightly unsteady it can massively amplify negative and irrational thoughts and feelings. Also, it will leave you with a painful hangover that will make you feel even worse emotionally.
2. Manage your expectations
Don't place unrealistic expectations on yourself, your family and the holidays. Just because movies or the media paint perfect pictures of conflict-free families, it doesn’t mean that’s reality. Accept that family dynamics will be stirred up and there will be a few arguments, or simply let yourself feel the feelings that are being brought up by this holiday. Taking things as they are and without judging them will really take a lot of stress out of this period!
3. Take some “me time“
It’s easy to get sucked into the festivities and feel pressured into spending the whole time with your family or friends. However, remember to take some time for yourself. Sometimes our feelings can be exacerbated by some family members or dynamics, so understanding when it’s time to go and read a book or go for a long walk is key to looking after yourself.
4. Limit social media
Do you know what is more unhelpful than placing unrealistic expectations on the holidays? Comparing your holidays to those of other people on social media. Constantly being exposed to other peoples’ (filtered) lives will not help your feelings of sadness or frustration – your life looks amazing on social media too, doesn’t it!? Take the holidays as an opportunity to limit checking social media to once a day (or less!) and avoid reverting to it automatically every time you’re bored. Who knows, maybe this good habit will stick for 2017?
5. Soothe your senses
Doing something comforting for each of your senses can really help to feed the “soothe” part of your brain and help you to feel better instantly. Prepare and carry a small “Soothe Kit” and take it out when you start to feel a bit overwhelmed:
- Sight: this could be a picture of a landscape or situation which makes you feel happy and relaxed.
- Sound: this could be your favourite calming playlist.
- Smell: pick your favourite calming scent – lavender is a great one for instant relief.
- Touch: this could be a small soft toy, or a satin ribbon – anything which helps you to instantly relax.
- Taste: while we don’t recommend turning to food for comfort, herbal tea can be very calming, and provide the right kind of relief when you need it most.
Margot is the founder of YourMind, a provider of mental wellbeing advice and online coaching and therapy. You can sign up for a regular newsletter with easy to follow tips for improved mental health.