Sing with me now– it’s beginning to look a lot like chaos, everywhere I go…. The holiday season is fully upon us– quite possibly the most anticipated and dreaded time of year. Yes, there is much to appreciate and be thankful for at this time of year. However, it also promises considerable holiday stress and anxiety for many. Shopping, bills, gift exchanges, holiday parties, traveling, family, food– it can become overwhelming! And if you’re one of the many who have experienced a loss this year, or have dealt/are dealing with a significant life change, or are just a normal, well-adjusted person– the holiday stress can be crushing. While hiding under the covers until January 1st may sound like a fabulous option, it’s not exactly realistic. So what to do for stress management during this “most wonderful time of the year”?
HERE ARE A FEW TIPS TO HELP REGAIN AND RETAIN YOUR MENTAL HEALTH THIS HOLIDAY SEASON (OR WATCH THE VIDEO HERE)–
Take a minute a few times a day to just breathe. Inhale, exhale, count to 60. (And as someone once told me– don’t curse between the numbers!) You can do this over your morning cup of coffee, while you wait in line at the lunch counter, right before you make an important business call, sitting in carline to pick the kids up from school– anytime. The simple act of focusing on your breathing can reduce your stress and give you a greater sense of peace. Even better, do it while listening (or singing along quietly) to your favorite holiday song! Breathing exercises are a wonderful tool for stress management in general, not just during the busy holiday season.
2. PHONE A FRIEND.
Sometimes it helps to just vent to your buddy about how awful the crowds were at the mall, or the latest shenanigans of your kids, or the new “holiday mandate” from your in-laws. Commiserate, and find the humor in the situation. Then–
3. GET TOGETHER WITH FRIENDS.
Take a break from the insanity and have lunch, go for cocktails, hit the mall as a pack and conquer the sales, maybe even have a marathon gift-wrapping session. Attend one of the many holiday concerts that are inevitably happening in your community. Or go ice skating in the park with everyone’s kids. Spending quality time with those you love, and who love you, is so very important in your stress management plan of attack.
4. BUT DON’T FORGET THE “ME” TIME ALONE.
Equally important to spending time with friends/family is to be sure you’re taking enough time for yourself. Practicing good self-care this time of year is essential. Take a longer shower, linger over your coffeehouse latte, read a good book, go for a walk, drive around and enjoy the holiday decorations, bundle up and attend the concert in the park.
5. CREATE A PLAYLIST OF ONLY THOSE HOLIDAY SONGS YOU LOVE AND LISTEN TO IT EXCLUSIVELY.
Now this one might seem a little odd, but stay with me here. There are thousands, if not millions, of renditions of popular holiday tunes. Let’s be honest– some are better than others. And yes, it’s nice that local radio stations play holiday music 24/7 starting the day after Halloween. But a person can only listen to “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” so many times before wanting to strangle a reindeer. Plus, think about it– this is one area of the holiday season where you can have total and complete control over what happens. Pick the songs you absolutely love and only listen to them. The reindeer will thank you for it. (And if you’re finding that your playlist is on the short side, check out the daily holiday music postings on my Facebook page here.) Music can be a terrific stress management tool any time of year!
6. BE REALISTIC ABOUT THE SEASON.
It’s easy to watch Christmas movies and TV commercials portraying the “perfect holiday” and compare it to our lives. This can lead to disappointment, feelings of inadequacy, and a general sense of let down that we’re not measuring up somehow. Your house might not be magazine shoot ready before the holiday party, but I’ll bet it looks pretty nice! Maybe you didn’t get all 27 batches of cookies baked before the cookie swap. But you did spend quality time with your kids making 3 kinds of sugar cookie cutouts. Perhaps you accidentally burned dinner and had to go out to a restaurant with the in-laws. But your mother-in-law shared that she once did the same thing when her in-laws came to visit!
Life happens. Holidays happen (every year!). Sometimes real life mirrors the comic holiday song “The 12 Pains of Christmas!” What’s important is being kind to yourself when things come up a little short of expectations or don’t go exactly as planned. Laugh more, go to bed early, and try again tomorrow. If you have additional tips or ways you manage to navigate the holidays that I haven’t mentioned, please share in the comment section below!
And if you find that you’ve tried all these tips and you’re still feeling overwhelmed by anxiety and holiday stress, it might be time to talk to a mental health professional who can help you sort it all out. You can call me at Healing Sounds Music Therapy, 256-655-0648, Monday through Friday 8am-5pm. I’m always happy to answer questions!