Although Christmas is often thought of as a happy time, in reality, it is often a time when people experience a great deal of stress and sometimes sadness.  A big part of reducing your stress over the Christmas holiday season is taking care of yourself.  When we are okay, we are in a much better position to give to others, which is what the holidays are all about.  To help you do this, you can try some of the following suggestions:

 Accept however you are feeling – It’s okay to feel low over the holidays.  For many, Christmas is associated with feelings of loss or disappointment.  Try to acknowledge your feelings and give yourself some time or space to experience them.  Sometimes it helps to set aside a certain amount of time every day, say 10 minutes, where all you do is let yourself feel whatever negative emotions you are dealing with.  By doing this, your emotions have an outlet and may allow you to feel better the rest of the day.  This also gives you some control over your emotions instead of feeling like they “just happen”. 

 Accept situations for what they are – Christmas often brings up feelings of disappointment that things in our life are not as we would like them to be.  For example, many people have a vision of how they would like Christmas with their family to look which does not reflect their reality. Some people have to spend the holidays away from loved ones or do not have the means to buy the gifts they would like to.  As hard as these situations are, one thing that can help is to let go of fighting reality and accept things as they are.  Once people do this, they are better able to focus on the positives in their lives and ways they can help themselves feel better. 

 Do things that make you feel better – One way to offset negative emotions is to do things that make you happy.  Sounds easy but it’s not. We often have a hard time making ourselves a priority.  Try to plan one thing a day that makes you feel better, such as talking to a friend, going for a walk, or taking a relaxing bath.  Research has also shown that doing nice things for others is associated with improving your mood.  This is one of my favorite things to do as it almost always makes me feel better if my mood is a bit low. 

 Honour what is best for you – Over the holidays, people often over extend themselves or feel pressure to change their routine, which can lead to a great deal of stress.  To help deal with these things, I suggest that you:

  •  Figure out a budget and stick to it as best you can. 
  •  Know your limits in terms of time and energy and remember that it’s okay to say no to some things.
  • Try to get enough sleep, eat healthy, and stick to your exercise routine, if you have one. 
  • Limit your alcohol consumption if possible, as alcohol can lead to poor sleep and increased depression. 

Remember to breathe – When you’re feeling frazzled, a good way to feel calmer is to take some slow, deep breathes.  It can be as simple as breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth, counting to five on both the inhale and the exhale. 

If you’re really struggling with stress or low mood, try to get help by talking to your doctor or a mental health professional.  Crisis lines can also be a great resource.  For those in British Columbia, the Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Centre of BC provides a number of services that I've included at the end of this post. 

What I’ve provided here is just a snapshot of some of the things you can do to help manage your stress or low mood over the holidays.  I hope that some of these suggestions are helpful and that you can take care of yourself over the holidays and enjoy some peace and gratitude. 

Warmly,
Karla

Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Centre of BC Services
Call from anywhere in BC: 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)
Vancouver area: 604-872-3311
Sunshine Coast/Sea to Sky: 1-866-661-3311
Mental Health Support Line: 310-6789 (does not need area code)
Seniors Distress Line: 604-872-1234
Online Chat Service for Youth: www.YouthInBC.com (Noon to 1am)
Online Chat Service for Adults: www.CrisisCentreChat.ca (Noon to 1am)