Holiday Survival Guide
Holiday season is upon us, and now is the time to work down your own list of traditions. Starting with the grand Thanksgiving meal, and ending with the ball drop signaling the New Year, what rituals activate your holiday spirit? Some popular traditions include decorating the Christmas tree, reaching out to Santa, baking cookies in ugly sweaters, exchanging gifts, and watching your favorite holiday movies with the people you love. While the holiday season is bright, colorful, jolly, loud, and exuberant, it can also be a quite stressful time for many people.
Whether you have complicated family relationships, financial stresses, increased anxiety, struggling after the loss of a loved one, or battling substance abuse, the holiday season can be anything but joyous to many people in our community. According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) 64% of people with mental illness say the holidays make their conditions worse. A 2021 survey showed that 3 in 5 Americans feel their mental health is negatively impacted by the holidays. If you find yourself feeling anxious for the holidays, you are certainly not alone. Here are some options to prioritize your mental health during this hectic season. Try one or all:
- Stressful Situations
- Create Boundaries
- Mix in or switch completely to N/A beverages and mocktails
- Avoid social media and comparisons
- Practice preemptive forgiveness (more on this below)
- Have an escape or back-up plan to remove yourself from a situation
- Stick to a budget or suggest a smaller gift exchange
- Identify and acknowledge your triggers
- Be realistic and don’t overcommit
- Self-Care Everyday
- Get outside for 20 minutes/day
- Try meditation or breathwork
- Go for a walk
- Introduce or create a new holiday tradition
- Start a gratitude journal
- Try a new activity or hobby
- Stick to a consistent routine
- Stay Connected
- Invite a friend, coworker, or neighbor to a holiday gathering
- Pick up the phone and call someone you miss
- Volunteer or donate to a local organization
- Visit a local Blue Run Bar (more info at boozelesssummit.com)
- Check in with friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers
- Attend a community gathering or event
- Make extra cookies to share
This year as you navigate and create your own holiday cheer, remember that many residents of Summit County are alone and away from friends and family, living here to work and help the community run and thrive during the busy tourist season. Practice gratitude and patience when you shop, run errands, check mail, or eat out at local establishments. You never know how an extra smile, short conversation, or gesture of appreciation can truly impact someone’s day.
Earlier I mentioned practicing preemptive forgiveness. Sometimes family (or work, or social) dynamics can be challenging. Planning forgiveness for a set number of times a person upsets or bothers you before you see them can be a great way to give yourself some space and allow the relationship some grace ahead of time. For example- you can anticipate ahead of time that a certain person’s actions or words will trigger you based on history. Putting a limit of 5 auto-forgives ahead of time will ease you into the situation and allow some extra time and space before you shift to stress or fight mode. After the 5th incident you are free to excuse yourself or initiate your escape plan.
I recently tried this on a road trip with my mother and sister (and I suggested they tried it on me as well). While we love each other deeply, we all have different communication styles and offerings that we bring to the group dynamic. Did it work? I think so, we survived a week on the road in close quarters with minimal conflict, positive memories, and a desire to plan another excursion in the future.
I am lucky to be close enough to see my family on most holidays. However, it is also not abnormal to be alone with my own small mountain family. I honestly don’t participate in many of the traditional holiday traditions like tree decorating, baking cookies, or grand gift exchanges. But I do look forward to heading to the hill with my boyfriend, snowboard, and backpack charcuterie board. After a few runs we find a place to post up and enjoy our portable holiday snack platter picnic. We end the evening with a dog walk and cuddle on the couch. It may not sound like everyone’s holiday cup of tea, but it works for us. Happy Holidays to all.