‘Tis the season for family, fun…and stress. But this year, unwrap the gift of wellness by employing strategies to help minimize stress, foster connection with your family and make the most out of the holidays. Ashley Jensen, LMFT, Senior Manager of Clinical Practice at Cohen Veterans Network, has 12 tips to support holiday wellness:
#1 Practice Open Communication
Find time to talk as a family about holidays stressors and how you want to address them when they come up. For ex., if a parent is deployed, you might find a unique way to celebrate with that parent from a distance. Or if someone in the family gets sad about missing that parent, perhaps they can write a note to them that later gets sent. The best strategies are those that are consistent with your family culture and are openly planned before the stressor occurs.
#2 Set Realistic Expectations
Unrealistic expectations can lead to disappointment. Set realistic goals and expectations to help minimize stress.
#3 Make Time for Time Management
Create a holiday schedule that allows for balance between work, family, and relaxation. Introducing time management to a hectic schedule can help reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed.
#4 Create a Budget
Financial stress is common during the holidays. Create a plan to budget for holiday spending and explore cost-effective ways to celebrate, removing stigmas around low-cost gifts.
#5 Allow for Flexibility
The holiday season rarely goes exactly as planned, so have a flexible mindset! If you can’t travel – have a campout next to the Christmas tree, if someone must stay home sick – snuggle up to watch holiday movies or if an event is cancelled – play outside. No matter what celebration looks like, connect it to the bigger reason for the season.
#6 Establish Boundaries
Encourage established boundaries by setting limits on how much time you spend with extended family or managing expectations for gift-giving.
#7 Resolve Conflict
Conflict is more likely to arise when you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. HALT is a great acronym to remember to check in with yourself. Often, when you address these things, you’re better prepared to handle holiday stress. When conflict arises:
- First, take a break. Even one minute of deep breath can help you approach conflict in a more productive manner.
- When you’re calm, try to understand the other person’s perspective without judging the validity.
- Then, share your perspective without placing blame. Using “I statements” can be helpful in diffusing tension. For ex., “I felt unappreciated when you didn’t ask for my input for our holiday schedule.”
- Lastly, remember you are on the same team! Try to approach problem solving together rather than assigning blame. For example, “How can we communicate better next time to avoid this misunderstanding?”
#8 Identify Healthy Coping Strategies
Healthy coping strategies can be deep breathing, mindfulness, journaling, or seeking social support.
#9 Focus on the Reason for the Season
Focus on the meaning and values of this time of year rather than just the material aspects. This can help shift the emphasis away from consumerism and reduce stress.
#10 Acknowledge Grief
The holidays can be a difficult time for families who have experienced loss. Encourage each other to acknowledge your grief and find ways to honor and remember your loved ones. If you’re in need of grief counseling, reach out for professional help.
#11 Maintain Traditions
Create and maintain meaningful rituals and traditions that can provide a sense of continuity and comfort during the holidays.
#12 Normalize Imperfection
Perfectionism can lead to unnecessary stress. Remind yourself that no holiday season is perfect, and it’s okay to have some chaos or imperfections.