Holiday Stress? Bah, Humbug.
(December 11, 2018)
When it comes to most forms of conventional medical advice, the laypersons' website of the Mayo Clinic's website is second to none. However, although their piece on Making The Most Of Your Holidays (as the ladies' magazines would put it) is somewhat helpful, it also misses some important points. Below I will shamelessly plagiarize bits of their article, with my own insightful additions provided in italics.
Tired of my nonsense (surely not?), and want it all straight from the horse's mouth? Here's the link: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20047544?p=1
The holiday season often brings unwelcome guests — stress and depression. No s***, Sherlock. But with some practical tips, you can minimize the stress that accompanies the holidays. You may even end up enjoying the holidays more than you thought you would. Doubtful. But, ok -- lay on, Macduff.
1. Acknowledge your feelings. If ... you can't be with loved ones, realize that it's normal to feel sadness and grief. Sometimes the problem, however, is the loved ones themselves. Choose a family member that you hate to see at the holidays, and avoid them completely this year.
2. Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, ... Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships. Reaching out can be good. So do reach out, to someone who doesn't mind listening to you kvetch. Everyone needs a friend who doesn't mind listening to them whine once in a while. If you do not have one, try to remember the last person whose whining YOU listened to, then call them. If there really is no one, dogs, cats, bartenders and hotlines do great in a pinch.
3. Be realistic. The holidays don't have to be perfect or just like last year. Realism: Everyone who usually misbehaves will do so again. You will not get the time off that you requested. The alternator will choose this time to burn out. The sheet of cookies that you are managing to finish just before you leave the house, will burn. You may add to this list as desired. And as for the glorious past? Remember a holiday tradition from your early years that you detested, and celebrate with a glass of Something that you do not need to do it anymore.
4. Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don't live up to all of your expectations. I disagree. Don't compromise who you are because you feel compelled to socialize with people who won't behave. If they must bring up a controversial topic of which they are abysmally ignorant, make them pay for it. Eventually they'll stop. (And if you actually try this, let me know if it works.)
5. Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend, then stick to your budget. Good luck with that. But really, here's the thing. This isn't the Depression anymore. Everyone in America who is not actually poor has everything they need already. I firmly believe that adults should only be giving cheap, fun presents to each other. My own friends are forced to acquiesce with me on this. You should force yours as well.
6. Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. This is even sillier than the thought that you can stick to a budget. So just see 3. above, "be realistic". Prioritize the things you HAVE to do, and let the others take care of themselves.
7. Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. I am all about this one. Let's practice. Here, try this; say, "I would love to, but I just can't this year." If that isn't accepted, then you would say (with a heavy sign) "Oh, because I just can't." If they persist, burst into tears, sob "I'm so sorry!" and turn away. Practice bursting into tears right now. It is a very handy skill.
8. Don't abandon healthy habits. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Well, yes, but don't forget there's great food around until the end of the year that you only see at the holidays. Eat at least some of everything that falls into THAT category, and skip Auntie Shooshoo's Jello mold. Don't forget how to fake that you're eating something, by the way. You exclaim with delight when you see it, take some and mess it up on the plate, then slip out to the kitchen and scrape it into the garbage when no one is looking. Then come back and ask for seconds, and do it all again.
9. Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm. Aren't the holidays fun? Next year, you should just go vacation somewhere that's too expensive for your family to join you (like Tahiti) or else someplace they don't want to go (like Johnson City). It's probably too late for that this year. Therefore, don't forget about drinking alone. It can be a lifesaver.
10. Seek professional help if you need it. Mayo means a medical doctor or a shrink. I'm thinking more like a caterer, housecleaner, babysitter or handyman. And for pity's sake, don't forget to visit your acupuncturist, chiropractor or massage therapist.
Don't let the holidays become something you dread. That's exactly right. And the way you do that is by taking charge. "No." "Just wanted you to know, we aren't doing gifts this year." "No." "Where's the eggnog and brandy?" "Auntie, this is delicious! I'm going to the kitchen to, ah, get some more." "No." I'm so sorry, I just can't."
And, done! See you on the other side.
--dr. diane holmes
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