The holidays aren’t always twinkling lights and smiles. For many, they can be full of stressors. Seeing a relative you don’t get along with; processing your first Christmas after a friend’s passing; feeling isolated during a time when everyone is with family – the holidays are multifaceted. The winter months are also a heightened time for drug and alcohol abuse, depression, and even suicide.
We sat with Gayle Lodato, senior director of Greater Chattanooga at the Helen Ross McNabb Center, to get tips on how to manage stress during the holiday season. Read her thoughts below:
- Acknowledge your feelings.
One of the most important things anyone can do is to take a step back and acknowledge what you’re feeling. When you pause to ask yourself what you’re feeling and why, you can avoid feeling a loss of control that stress is rooted in. Journaling is a great method for this. It helps you get your feelings out and learn about yourself in a forum with no judgment – a blank piece of paper. It’s not healthy to keep those feelings in, so acknowledging them in some way, can be very stress-relieving.
- Practice self-care.
With all the parties and busyness of the holiday season, it can be easy to fall behind on sleep, miss exercise and not take time for yourself. Those things don’t set you up well to navigate a stressful season. Also, when it gets dark outside earlier and the weather is colder, it can be hard to stay active. Endorphins are the ultimate stress fighter, and you can still get them during the holiday season if you get creative. Maybe you can integrate short walks into your work day or practice meditation. We hurt ourselves when we forego self-care.
- Make a budget.
Gifts, food, decorations and more can all add up during the holiday season. I recommend being realistic about your financial situation and making a holiday budget so you don’t seed financial stress that will carry over long after the holidays have passed.
- Talk to someone.
Nobody thrives in isolation. If you’re feeling alone, stressed or down, find someone you can talk to. This might be a clergy member, friend or counselor. Building a social support system you can rely on will help you navigate holiday stress.
- Don’t be hard on yourself.
At New Year’s, we sing ‘Auld Lang Syne,’ commemorating ‘days gone by.’ But, if we’re honest, not all of us had a great year, and it’s ok to acknowledge that truth. The holidays can make us feel like we need to put on an emotional performance. For New Year’s, thinking about resolutions can make us feel inadequate or like we haven’t accomplished something we want to do. My advice is to not be too critical of yourself. Instead, count the blessings you do have and recognize that nobody is perfect.
For anyone struggling emotionally during the holidays, there are lots of resources where you can get help. Here are some that I recommend:
- Bradford Health Services – Chattanooga
- Centerstone Chattanooga
- Chattanooga Alcoholics Anonymous
- Chattanooga Area of Narcotics Anonymous
- Focus Treatment Center Chattanooga
- Helen Ross McNabb Center – Hamilton County
- Parkridge Valley
United Way of Greater Chattanooga is a proud supporter of the Helen Ross McNabb Center. If you or someone you know would benefit from mental health support or someone to talk to, visit their website or call 1-800-255-9711.