Five tips for coping with holiday stress during this dark and demanding time of the year
Thanksgiving is a holiday clearly associated with gratitude, however, so many of us come off of the turkey and fixings feasting to kick-off the holiday season feeling lonely, overwhelmed and a little lost. As the winter solstice approaches and days continue to get darker sooner, it’s also not uncommon to feel exhausted, especially in the midst of the holiday hustle and bustle, parties and shopping that make up a big part of the yuletide time of year.
I often think of how much humans are much like honeybees as the days get darker, yet we’re expected to meet lofty expectations. Eighty percent of our nation’s commercial honeybees are needed to pollinate California’s almond trees. This pollination must happen during a critical two-week window and require that bees are awoken early from their winter hibernation, fed corn syrup in place of nectar and trucked in droves out to California. Awoken early, with poor diets and compromised immune systems, they’re dropped into almond fields with millions of other bees, pushed to fulfill the important duty of almond flower pollination. And, then they get sick.
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a term coined to describe massive honeybee losses, has often been referred to as a mystery, but I think it’s pretty clear. Think about how you feel during the holidays: You awake and it’s still dark, eat unhealthy food, push yourself hard to get all your normal tasks done on top of the demanding responsibilities that come with the holidays and then share space with a lot of people who have been exposed to germs of all sorts throughout their holiday travels. With this perfect storm of stressors at play, it’s not uncommon for honeybees or humans to feel stressed, depleted and get sick.
Unlike honeybees that work so flawlessly in their hive communities, humans tend to struggle with complex emotions and interpersonal relationship issues that can feel particularly triggering and elevated during the holiday season. Self-care often goes by the wayside and the inner self-critic can come out to roost. We might feel lonely, especially if we’re single or estranged from family. Or, we might struggle with stress around finances, picking the perfect gifs, spending time with relatives or simply getting it all done. It may be that we’re struggling with finding joy in life in general. Although we’re told that we’re supposed to feel festive, for many of us, the holiday season is a particularly heavy time of year.
Thankfully, there are ways that we can mitigate holiday stress. There are actions we can take to take better care of ourselves in the midst of the travel, heavy emotions, late nights and rich foods that can make the holidays hard. Unlike honeybees that have no say about when they are woken up, where they are trucked to or what they pollinate, as human beings, we have the capacity to create agency over our own lives. The following five tips can help you lighten the holiday blues and feel more empowered, grounded and at peace no matter what this season has in store for you.
Go To Your Safe Place
The holidays can come with a host of triggers even for the most festive and grounded of us. When you feel lonely, sad, overwhelmed or anxious, take a few quiet minutes to pause, breathe and visually connect to a place or time in your life when you felt content, connected and at peace. This could be your grandmother’s house that you visited as a child or your uncle’s farm where you spent summers. Connecting—even if just for a few minutes in your mind—to a safe place during stressful times can help you tap into a sense of contentment and acceptance in the present moment.
Go Where You Feel Connected
Although the media often depicts the holidays as a time when happy, smiling families come together in peace, for many of us, that constructed ideal couldn’t be further from our actual experience. Some of us don’t have families and feel lonely, disconnected and sad. Others grudgingly spend time with family, anticipating arguments or at least tense conversations. For many of us, the holidays are a time when we really miss someone we’ve recently lost and a seat that was once filled by him or her at the table can bring on strong feelings of grief that are amplified during the holidays. If you find yourself feeling like you have no where to go or don’t want to be where you are, it can be helpful to break out of normal routine and go somewhere that you want to be. Maybe it’s for a weekend, overnight or just for an hour or two, but go somewhere that you feel at peace. Pull a Dorothy, click your heels three times, visualize your “home”—your place of peace—and make a plan to get there.
Give Yourself A Gift
The holidays can be depleting, and it’s so important that we fill ourselves up so we can best provide for others. During this dark time of year when we should be resting, we’re, instead, moving so fast and, like the honeybee, we start running on empty. This year, do something to fill your own cup, whether that be giving yourself flowers, treating yourself to a pedicure or investing in a small trinket or even the new smartphone you’ve been eyeballing. Give yourself permission to give to yourself in the season of giving and truly allow yourself to believe that you deserve it.
Go To Your Place Of Peace
Practicing mindfulness and doing things that help you ground into the present moment can be invaluable always, but it’s especially helpful during the holidays. What is it that helps you feel peaceful and present? Is it yoga? Meditation? Exercise? Hiking? Being outdoors? Taking a long bath? Make sure that you make time during this season to go to your “spiritual center”—whatever that means for you. Take time to recharge, reflect on what is authentically important to you and tap into what you need to feel full.
Give Yourself Permission To Take Care Of Yourself
We all have the power to take thoughtful actions about how we take care of ourselves, although in stressful times, we often lose sight of that and neglect to. Empower yourself this holiday season and give yourself permission to engage in self-care practices that best support you and address your needs.
Have A Happy Holiday And Set Yourself Up For An Empowering New Year!
If you’re having a hard time coping with holiday stress or holiday depression, you are not alone, and it’s okay to ask for help. Sometimes we all need the guidance, support, encouragement, and care that can come with working with another person. What is it that you need throughout this holiday season to feel happy and whole? Do you often feel pushed, like the honeybee, to do things that don’t feel in tune with the true you? What is it that you’d like to create in the coming year? A certified life coach who specializes in Empowerment Coaching can help you get clear about what is most important to you and help you devise the actionable steps that can help you live in alignment with your values. It is possible to feel empowered, reach goals that are meaningful to you and live a life of joy, contentment, and peace.