Holidays, Christmas, New Years. We are told that these holiday occasions should be the happiest time of year, an opportunity to be joyful, grateful and reflect on the passing year with family and friends. Yet, for many these holidays can be a time of stress, anxiety, disappointment and loneliness.
Christmas can come with high expectations of perfect, happy friends and family, luxurious gifts and elaborate celebrations, but not all of us are able to tick all these boxes. Some may have lost loved ones and find Christmas bringing about intense feelings of grief and sadness. Many people including myself experience feelings of isolation, financial pressures and increased family conflict that can make this joyous time of year very stressful and tiring.
Dealing with family tension
All families big, small, blended and split experience family conflicts. Family and relationship problems can be a trigger for anxiety and depressive symptoms and can make Christmas lunch a very awkward experience for all. Some ideas to help manage the stress of family tension may include;
Set realistic expectations. Christmas may not always go to plan and that ideal family reunion may not be such a positive experience. Plan how you will manage any feelings of anxiety and depression that may arise.
Drink in moderation. The festive season always comes with the temptation to drink too much, but alcohol can also contribute to anxiety and depression. Become aware of why you are choosing to drink that extra glass, are you drinking to cope with the family tension?
Avoid known triggers. If your family has a history of arguing over certain topics, don’t bring it up.
Take a bathroom break. This is my favorite one. Go to the bathroom, take a deep breath, talk to yourself in the mirror and reset for round two.
Many people can find the holiday season a time of loneliness. What if there is a Christmas party you didn’t get invited to, what if you missed out on a Christmas present from someone that gave one to all your friends or colleagues, what if you can’t seem to organize a single hour with someone because they are so booked up? If you find yourself feeling isolated or grieving a loved one during Christmas there are a variety of exercises and activities that you can Implement to help;
Connect with family and friends. Don’t always wait for them to come to you. Pick up your phone, write a letter, send an email, organize a gathering yourself. Stay in touch and reach out to those who have meaning in your life.
Make plans on Christmas day. Develop a plan in advance to avoid feelings of depression, loneliness and anxiety. This could be as simple making yourself breakfast, taking the dogs for a walk or meeting a friend for a stroll before that big Christmas lunch.
Watch a festive Christmas movie. My favourite is the Muppets Christmas Carol!
We hear this day in and day out, maintaining a healthy balanced diet and participating in a variety of physical activities can help reduce the risk of suffering from anxiety and depression symptoms. This also counts during the holiday period.
During your break take care to;
Eat a well balanced diet full of whole foods including fruit, veggies and grains
Everything in moderation. This is a great time of year to treat yourself, but consuming that whole block of chocolate, going back for seconds of that Christmas pudding and drinking many sugary drinks can take its toll on your body and mood if sustained over a longer period of time.
Sleep. Sleep is essential for mood, fatigue levels, attention span and depression and anxiety symptoms. Sometimes we can get carried away with late nights and excessive sleep in’s causing our body clocks to go haywire and our moods to skyrocket. Try and keep your body clock regular. This means to have a regular bedtime and attempt to get up at a reasonable time of morning habitually.
Exercise. YES!! We are open during Christmas. So come down and keep up your sessions with your trainers. If you are limited by time go for a walk, go to your local gym, take the family outside, exercise your pets. Nature, fresh air and physical activity as we all know are great mood enhancers. Don’t neglect these simple practices during the holiday period.
Meditate. The holiday period is a great time to reflect on all the good that has happened during the year. Take the time to stop, become within body, ground yourself and take in life just as it is. Practice gratitude and thankfulness for all that has happened, for all those who have walked in and out of your life, and all the new prospects coming your way. We only have so many days of this year to go.
Have a Merry Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year.
Written by Rhiannon Parker - Bachelor of Physical Education and Fitness Coach