December 18, 2021 Glynis Kennedy
Ho-ho-holiday season is upon us. Does it bring joy and warmth, or is it
a source of different kinds of stress? As adults, we are often overloaded with responsibilities during the holiday season. That seems to be the main reason we feel all kinds of negative emotions. Coping with those emotions can be difficult. Let’s see what we can do to minimize them and get through Christmas with blues just on a playlist.
Photo by G. Shcouten de Jel
The sources of negative emotions
Sometimes this list looks endless, mainly depending on our views and needs during the festive season. Identifying the problem is the first step to solving it, no matter how big or small. It is just a matter of perception.
1. Holiday Stress
Any kind of stress, even Holiday stress, is our body and mind’s response to the new challenges and responsibilities that they present. Anything new and out of our ordinary is perceived as stress – whether it is a family fight, holiday traffic jam, or late shopping.
Our brains react to those situations by releasing stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Heart rate spikes and pupils dilate, muscles tighten, and our body is ready for action. But there is no action.
Short-term and regulated stress is beneficial to us, it keeps us alert and focused. A chronic state of stress takes an enormous toll on our physical and mental health. It is like sawing a branch that you are sitting on.
2. Negative thinking
Our state of thinking is important. We base our actions and feelings on our thoughts. It is normal to have bad ideas from time to time, but it is important to know how to identify them and keep going without changing our whole day.
- Jumping to conclusions: Distorted way of thinking by making assumptions of what others think or expecting how events will turn out.
- Catastrophizing: Pattern characterized by assuming and expecting the worst possible outcome instead of being realistic.
- Overgeneralization: Applying the outcome of one past experience to all new or future experiences. Making the negative outcome look unavoidable contributes to the anxiety.
- Labeling: Putting a negative label on yourself changes your way of thinking in different situations. An example, “I burnt my cookies last year, what is the point of making the same mistake. I am obviously bad at that”, instead of “I burnt my cookies, I better watch closely over them this year.”
- Emotional reasoning: Assumption of truth based on emotions. Feeling nervous in a situation (a safe one) will have your emotional reason signal you that maybe danger is imminent. That will only escalate the same type of negative feelings and anxiety.
- Blame and personalization: A pattern of blaming yourself for things or events out of your control. Making those events personal when they clearly should not be. Just maybe, it is not your fault that someone you care for is having a bad day.
The key to stopping the patterns is recognizing them, taking a moment, and identifying them as unhelpful. Then you can work on the problem.
It is not easy to change a pattern or a habit. About fifteen to twenty minutes of daily meditation can do wonders for your mental health.
It is clear that the festive season brings a lot of financial difficulties, gifts for friends and family, a tree, decorations, and putting all the tasty foods and beverages on the table.
As our wallets take a good hit from the festivities, some people need to work more hours or days to provide what others expect of them, which adds to the worries.
Paint a picture of what you would like your Christmas to look like and stick to it as much as possible. Plan ahead, be realistic, talk with friends and family about what they would like. Compromise a little to honor their image of Christmas.
Don’t overdo the expectations, as some often do, since most people don’t deal with failed expectations all that well.
- The comparison problem
One of the biggest mistakes we make is comparing what we have or will have to those who have more. Comparing to past experiences brings us more stress than being grateful for what and who we have in our lives.
- Being lonely
We tend to close in on ourselves on the mention of family and group gatherings, isolating and bottling all the sadness, anger, etc.
Others think that no one cares for them and have no place anywhere joyful.
Everyone has someone that cares for them. Get in touch with that person. If you really do not have anybody, get yourself out there and find somebody. There is probably another person that thinks the same way, and you can prove each other wrong.
Ways to reduce stress
Being overwhelmed by stress suggests that our daily choices are not long-term beneficial decisions. Our subconsciousness picks up on our activities, tells us when we are doing fine, but punishes us when we are unproductive.
Every holiday needs to be refreshing and joyful; that is why it is called a holiday.
Being mindful of yourself and others can go a long way to keep your plans of others from failing.
- Planning Christmas ahead
Shop early to avoid crowds and potentially out-of-stock products.
Setting some expectations for others and yourself is healthy. Who’s coming? What do they eat? Talking topics or ones to avoid?
Including the people coming into the planning should be beneficial to both parties. They could contribute to your Christmas image, and you can make small compromises.
Anything that comes up that would alter the essential things to you and others, giving yourself permission to say no is vital.
Holidays are a good time as any to practice saying no and learning how to set boundaries, so you don’t let others walk over you.
Without boundaries, you are more likely to be at the mercy of others.
Social environments and life experiences shape your values, opinions, core beliefs, and your perspective of things. From those, we draw boundaries.
Be aware of your boundaries, think about them, and discuss them, as we tend to be wrong. Do not live without them!
- Make a budget
A predetermined budget can save you a lot of thinking about choosing presents. Getting as many people as possible involved in such an idea could be great for everyone. Depending on the number of people you choose to gift, choose the budget per person, let’s say 10 dollars. Take some time, think about the person, what they talk about, and what they need. Some people make it easy and say what they need. If you cannot think of something they need because they have everything they need, it is never a bad idea to do something yourself. A gift representing your relationship, a sign of gratitude for being in your life, shows how much you value and cherish them.
- Daily routines
Sticking to your routines is very beneficial for your well-being. Burning off those additional calories from the extra cake and excess energy with exercise is an excellent way to regulate your emotions.
The morning shower and a hot drink will do you just fine on those usually gloomy winter days. It is important to keep the body doing what it’s doing all year round and not waste energy on making new habits.
Photo by Prasanth Inturi
- Practicing mindfulness
An untrained mind is like standing on a hectic highway. Cars, like thoughts, speed through it and require your attention to avoid potential danger, rendering you almost blind to what is really going on around you.
Training yourself to get yourself off the highway and be an onlooker on the side is the key to retaining your focus and clear thinking.
Being able to separate from the flow of thoughts, pick them apart and evaluate them is mindfulness. Understanding your thoughts can help you react less impulsively and better manage your stress and anger.
This is achievable through meditation, an excellent exercise to keep your mind in shape, and mental health.
- Alcohol and overeating
In moderation, almost everything is beneficial to our bodies.
A good glass of red wine after lunch benefits our digestive system, and blood circulation, and reduces the risk of a stroke. It could help in a social occasion where participants are a bit stiff. After a glass, they may loosen up and have a good time.
Alcohol is not all good, it is easy to overconsume which can lead to a loss of control, and vomiting, you know the deal.
Being a little careful with consumption during family events can save you a lot of stress the day after, no hangover, no migraines, no shameful events.
Overeating and binge eating can bring momentary satisfaction and happiness, afterward it just self-hate and cravings for more. Sometimes it is a sign of something more serious like bulimia.
Both activities reduce your sleep quality; a good night of sleep is one of the best tools to deal with stress and anxiety.
- Limiting time on social media
As a relatively new thing around, it was not clear what the results of overuse would bring. Several studies have shown the negative impacts of social media on our lives.
Increasing depression, anxiety, and even suicide rates in teenagers.
That could easily be because almost everyone using social media portrays only the best from their lives. Watching everyone’s perfect life as you ask yourself why can’t you have that or think that you are less worthy. No one’s life is perfect.
Taking pictures and sharing them with friends is not a problem, but know that the time spent on media is meaningless. The Social Dilemma documentary explains perfectly why we should regulate or even quit social media.
A similar point to sticking to a daily routine, both are critical to good mental health.
It is the season of being selfless and giving, but your time between parties, traveling, work deadlines is crucial.
The things you enjoy, habits, and hobbies you do keep you sane; that is why you do them.
Activities for personal enjoyment are especially valuable if you share your living space with your in-laws. Everyone should get their downtime to have some breathing room and relax.
- Avoid family fights and arguments
It may sound easy and trivial; well, you know your family, and you should know their behavioral patterns. The provocative questions, pokes, and prods, usual story about how your uncle burnt the burgers 8 years ago, etc.
The only behavior you can control is your own, so maybe you can brush off a provocative remark about your job or personality and prove them wrong this year.
It is called acting as an adult, controlling your emotions and impulses to contain a healthy atmosphere for the rest of the event. Later you can discuss the topic with the person, in private.
People, in general, seem to have lost empathy and compassion. This is the season to show that we care for each other; even better, try to keep the spirit up as long as possible during the year.
Indulge in moderation activities, stick to your daily activities and be mindful of others if you share a living space. Before you judge others, think about your actions and the consequences they bring. Avoid isolation and reach out to people in your life. Try something new. Enjoy your time with family and friends, don’t take that time for granted; it is limited. What will you try this year?
Merry Christmas, and remember to keep the blues only on a playlist!