Put these beneficial coping strategies on your holiday to-do list.
The holidays are already a stressful time of year – add a health pandemic, canceled travel plans and disappointment over not being able to spend the season with family and friends and it's enough to put anyone over the edge. That's why it's even more important in the year 2020 to pay attention to your own needs and desires. Some simple strategies can help to boost tolerance to stress so we can find those moments of peace and joy, even during a year when current events have made that a special challenge.
Pay attention to your diet
Over holidays we tend to indulge a little too often -- and staying close to home this year may compound that even further. When we eat or drink differently, it throws us off-kilter physically and mentally, and keeps us from what we need to do. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to dehydration, which is associated with increased cortisol levels and elevated stress. Around the holidays, it is extra important to keep your water bottle filled up and close by at all times. Make an extra effort to stick to a normal, healthy eating plan.
This is something you can do anytime, anywhere, in any position, with a big benefit. When you recognize that you are starting to feel stressed, take three deep breaths. As you exhale slowly and deeply, release your shoulders down, and imagine the tension leaving your body. Think of a place that brings you joy. Similarly, before you get out of bed every morning, try stretching for a few minutes or doing anything else that helps you start the day on a positive or luxurious note. Try to keep some semblance of your normal schedule, which may include exercise or another typical form of self care. Even a little bit goes a long way. Remember, the holidays we see portrayed in movies and TV are fallacy. Most families never achieve that. Good self-care and acceptance is the best gift you can give yourself this holiday season.
Ask for help
Accept that you can’t do it all yourself – none of us can. Make sure that you delegate some of the tasks that are not top priority. If the table setting is very important to you, keep that job but hand off shopping duties or bringing up chairs from the basement. Asking for help doesn’t mean you can’t manage it all, it means you shouldn’t manage it all. You deserve to enjoy the holiday just as much as your loved ones.
Laura Himmelstein, LCSW, is a Clinical Social Worker who works with patients and caregivers at White Plains Hospital.