We have all come to expect that our lives will be more stressful during the holiday season. Between shopping, gift wrapping, and “decking the halls” there is little time to accomplish our day-to-day tasks—like going to work, taking care of our children, and taking care of ourselves. At the end of the holidays, we are exhausted and our nerves are frazzled. Ho-Ho-Ho becomes Ho-um.
While it “tis the season to be jolly”, many of us also experience the “holiday blues”. If you are a survivor of sexual abuse or domestic violence, the holidays can intensify confusion, anxiety, and depression. Recognize that you are going to be stressed and depressed. Instead of beating yourself up for feeling this way, take charge of this holiday season! The holidays will bring up many childhood emotions and memories. Develop a plan for this holiday season. When difficult emotions or memories strike, reach out to a friend for support. Remember: You ARE a survivor and thriver!
Decide with whom you will spend your time. Do you want to spend time with your parents and siblings? Do you want to spend time with grandparents, aunts, and uncles? Do you want to spend time with your in-laws? If you don’t, make other plans. Spend the holidays with friends or at home with your mate and children. Stand up to your family when they make demands on your time and try to “guilt” you into participating in family festivities. Take charge of your holiday activities.
Realize that if you are going to spend the day with your family of origin you are going to slip into old patterns. Studies have concluded that when you are around your family, the longest length of time you will remain in your “adult self” is about 17 minutes. So be gentle with yourself and nurture that inner child after visits which are difficult.
If you’re going to be around your family, set realistic goals for yourself. Give yourself credit for the goals you do attain and don’t beat yourself up when you slip into old patterns. Acknowledge your anger, pain and other distressing emotions. Be sure to spend time with support people so you have a safe place to release feelings. Recognize that alcohol and sweets exacerbate depression. Avoid alcohol altogether—it will only dampen your spirits and you’ll feel even more depressed after the fact. Limit the cookies and candy you eat. Satisfy those cravings for something sweet by eating fresh fruits. Make sure that you are eating a healthy, balanced diet. Do something after breakfast that will get your endorphins going. Take time for physical activity. Take charge of your nutritional habits and physical health.
Keep your gift giving and spending in check. Don’t spend more than you can afford. You may feel very festive when you are buying a lot of gifts and charging them on your Visa or Mastercard but that feeling will be short-lived when the bills start pouring in during January. Being overwrought with holiday debts will only intensify depression.
Limit the number of people with whom you will exchange gifts. Limit the amount per person you will spend. Many nice, inexpensive gifts are available. Put your holiday talents to use this season. Your crafts, poems and paintings make great gifts and will be appreciated for years to come. Baked goods are always a nice treat. Give your friend a “coupon” entitling her or him to three hours of babysitting.
There are many activities that you can do with your children that don’t cost money. Several community events are planned. Check the paper and let your children decide which ones they want to attend. Take them to see the lights in your neighborhood. If there’s snow in Prescott or Payson, spend the day making snowmen and throwing snowballs. If you prefer the warm sunshine, take your family on a picnic at the lake or in the mountains. Make puppets and then act out a play. Be creative in your gift giving, but above all: Take control of your spending!
Give yourself a gift this holiday. Take a workshop on journal writing. Join a support group. Do something nice for yourself. Remember: You are important. You CAN take control of your holiday season!
Make this holiday season a holiday of choice!