Some people love the holidays and all of the traditions that surround it.  For others, not so much. In fact, the holidays are quite the opposite. The holidays can bring on insurmountable stress, unwelcome anxiety, and unshakable depression.  The over commercialization and pressures of the season, increased feelings of loneliness, and tight finances make the holiday season unpleasant for many people. Many people struggle over the holidays, but there are things to reduce those feelings you typically experience.  

  1. Stop feeling guilty and ashamed that the holiday season doesn’t bring you joy! Accept that this isn’t a good time for you, don’t apologize for it, and don’t let others make you feel like there is something wrong with you.  You are not alone! Thousands of people, in fact, probably many people you know, dread the hubbub and stress of the holidays.
  2. Don’t leave everything to the last minute.  There is a reason those people you consider crazy start shopping for the holidays shortly after the big day is over.  It is a coping strategy to help alleviate the stress associated with the holidays. For others, avoidance is a very common tactic to delay facing the inevitable.  Avoiding the holidays won’t make them go away and, in fact, will make this situation worse. You have tasks at this time of year that you can’t avoid. Make lists – who you need to buy for and potential gift ideas, dates of outings, things you need to do around your house, etc., and tackle them one by one.  Check off items as they are done to give you a sense of accomplishment.
  3. Stick to a budget. The holidays are one of the most commercialized and expensive events of the year.  Fight the urge to overspend on gifts. It might be easier to get that expensive gift that you know will be a winner, but blowing your budget will equal added stress. Make a list of everyone you need to buy for, decide how much you can afford, and stick to your budget as closely as possible.  This is another reason that thinking of a gift idea before you head out to purchase is a good idea. Then you won’t be overspending impulsively.
  4. Don’t drink excessively.  Socializing tends to increase a lot during the holidays.  Unfortunately, alcohol is a depressant and it “depresses” the production of serotonin, which is our mood regulator.  If we are prone to depression, drinking too much can trigger a depressive episode and if you are feeling down already, it can get out of your control.  Even people that don’t suffer from depression can feel the negative effects of over drinking on mood. Go easy and consciously (no pun intended) limit yourself.
  5. Get active, get together, and get outside. It might look miserable out and you might lack motivation at this time of year, but going for a walk is a great way to clear your head and get some exercise.  Even shoveling the driveway can give us a sense of accomplishment and make us feel better. Sunshine and exercise are both mood boosters. Enjoy getting together with people. Sit around a fire. Socialize with friends and family. Studies show that socializing also increases our sense of well-being and decreases feelings of depression.

The holiday season is tough for many people.  Struggling when everyone else around you seems full of what we perceive as euphoric joy can make us feel like there is something wrong with us. There isn’t.  We just don’t enjoy the hype, stress, pressure, and commercialization associated with the season. Keep it simple. Enjoy the aspects of the holiday that are truly important to you.   Make a game plan and stick to it. Pay attention to your mental health and when you feel overwhelmed, ask for help. We are all here for you.  

Wendy Blancher a  co-owner and clinical counsellor at Incentive Counselling services is accepting new clients. Call 250-212-5160 or email wendy@incentivecouselling.ca to book an appointment and enjoy December savings on clinical services.