9 Tips to Navigate the Holidays with Ease

Have you started feeling the sense of overwhelm that we’ve all come to expect during the holidays? Does the very thought of the Holidays give you a deep feeling of sadness?

The holidays are overwhelming for different reasons. Some of us stress over our list, (holiday gift lists, our to-do lists, guest lists, grocery list, or that thing I want to accomplish before the end of the year, etc.).

While the rest of us stress over the anticipated sadness of the holidays: being alone, losing a loved one, being out of work, being away from family, etc.

We can all use a few tips and tricks to navigate the holidays. What should be the most happiest and joyful time of the year turns out to be the most overwhelming time of the year. And now there’s COVID-19 added to mix, our sense of overwhelm has escalated even higher.

I am no stranger to holiday meltdowns, extreme loneliness, and dread. But this year, I’m experiencing a sadness beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. To be honest, I’m not looking forward to the holidays. I lost my dad this year, and the range of emotions I experience from one day to another is in itself overwhelming. I can’t imagine what the holidays would be like for me without him.

On the other side of the coin, I have friends and family who are still here with me, and I want to celebrate and enjoy time with them. 

So I did what I do best, and I wrote a plan for the holidays because being prepared is one of the best ways I know how to navigate anything.

Be Prepared:

  • Overwhelm, stress, dread, sadness, or an ambush of several other emotions can attack at any time; therefore, it’s best to be prepared beforehand.

Think about the times you believe may be particularly difficult for you (maybe it’s Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas Eve), and then put a plan in place.

  • Find a support group. There are several support groups with targeted events that are helpful to deal with the stress, sadness, and overwhelm of the holiday season
  • Have a number for a hotline programmed into your phone. Many people volunteer to provide these services during the holiday.
  • Tell your counselor or therapist you may need extra sessions to help navigate the holidays.
  • Recruit a close friend or family that you can call if negative emotions become intense.

Give Yourself Grace:

  • Knowing that holidays may trigger feelings such as sadness, stress, isolation, dread loneliness, and maybe even joy in remembering.  Give yourself permission to experience those feelings when they arise. 

We are thought to ignore or push away our feelings but I invite you to embrace them all:

 Cry if you feel like crying, laugh if you feel like laughing, and punch a pillow if you feel like punching a pillow.

Honor yourself and be gentle.

Accept your reality and know that it won’t last forever:

  • Sometimes the holidays can go exceptionally slow, it can remind you of your loss, lack, or loneliness, accept this is where you are right now. It’s a season and it too shall pass.  Don’t feel guilty if your only goal this season is to get through the holidays.

Limit your Social Media time:

  • Take a break from social media. Or it may have you playing the game of comparison which can lead to all types of negative emotions and thoughts. Remember most people’s social media accounts are curated, it’s not real. 
  • It may be time to limit the time you spend on social media.
  • Put your phone away during meals,
  • leave your phone outside your bedroom
  • or do a holiday detox.

Go outside and move your body:

  • Fresh air is a wonderful medicine for the mind, body, and soul.

Go outside and take a few breaths or go for a walk. A 15-minute walk can make a huge difference but bundle up it’s cold out there.

Prioritize sleep

  • Sleep is important especially during the busier holiday season — we can easily find ourselves staying up later or sleeping in.

But we need our rest more than ever. Try your best to keep your sleep on track by going to bed and waking up at the same time. If you’re like me and struggle to fall asleep reading does the trick or watching Frasier reruns.

Say no without feeling guilty

  • It’s okay to say no! Read that again “it is okay to say NO. Set firm boundaries around invitations to holiday events, requests for drinks or dinner, family celebrations, or requests for help.

You matter here, you are your priority and you can’t be good to anyone unless you are good to you. Therefore it’s okay to say no to an invitation or two or no to someone who is asking for your help. Don’t let others guilt you into doing more than you can handle this season.

Ask for help

  • Some of us don’t like asking for help (present company included) because it makes us feel weak. Asking for help is the best thing you can do for yourself. Call a friend or family or neighbor if the need arises.

In August I had a stretch of awful days. I couldn’t deal with the sadness, I knew I needed help. But I didn’t want to reach out to friends and family so I called the number on the back of my insurance card for mental health assistance. I was immediately transferred to someone that I could speak to. And I received several follow-up calls over the course of two weeks.

Ask for help. It’s the bravest thing you can do for yourself.

Check-in with your Strong friend:

  • While we find ways to navigate the holiday season there are many of us who need more support than others. And there are some of us who look like we have it all together and we don’t need or want anything. 

I am that strong friend who checks up on everyone to make sure they are okay. But this year I realized that over the years there were so many times that I needed and wanted help but no one knew or asked if I was okay; because I am always the strong one. So check in with your strong friend they may need your help.

Stress and triggers of emotional distress during the holidays maybe something we’ve normalized. But there is nothing normal about it. Therefore we must find ways to minimize it and there are several ways for us to get through it. Remember not everything works for everyone, what may have worked for me may not work for you and that’s okay. It’s about you experimenting and finding what works for you and deciding what you need to get you through the season

Comment below and share how you will be navigating the holiday season

Nat C.


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