The Christmas/holiday season can be difficult for many people. It offers many opportunities for using your resilience resources. What makes this a difficult time? How can you increase your ability to overcome the challenges the season may bring?
Why are the holidays sometimes difficult? Here are a few common reasons:
- Unpredictability. Work, school, and family schedules change during the holidays. You may be away from familiar people and routines. You might be traveling, or have visitors from out of town. Businesses and services you count on may be closed or have limited hours. All of these things lead to reduced predictability, and an increased need to adapt and adjust to different situations.
- Expectations.It’s easy to have unrealistic expectations about the holidays. If you envision a happy gathering with family or friends, where everyone loves the presents you got them and there is no disagreement or conflict, you are almost certain to be disappointed. If you have very little money, but feel that you are failing if you don’t buy nice things for everyone, you will either stress yourself out about not being able to afford what you want to get, or you will stress yourself out about the credit card bills you run up while buying things you can’t afford.
- Loneliness. Many people feel lonely at the holidays. You may be missing loved ones who are gone or far away; you may feel you don’t have any place to belong or anyone who cares about you. In a season where it seems that everyone else is surrounded by friends and family, both of these can feel especially difficult.
- Health. During the holidays, you may eat more—and less healthy—food than you usually do. You may drink more alcohol or coffee. You may also exercise less, get less sleep, and spend more time sitting down. All of these things reduce physical well-being and, because of that, make it harder to deal with challenges that you can usually manage with no problems.
What are some things you can do?
- Expect the unexpected. Yes, the holidays can be unpredictable. And as silly as it sounds, sometimes just reminding yourself that you are in the “unpredictability zone” can help. If you are aware that you are disconnected from daily routines and connections, and that this is likely to feel uncomfortable, you may be able to deal with it better. In addition, if you can think of ways to stay connected with what’s familiar (taking pictures of family or friends with you as you travel, waking up at the same time every day, etc.), this may help as well.
- Check your expectations.If you find yourself feeling disheartened or stressed, see if you can track the feeling back to an unmet expectation. Once you’ve done that you can decide whether the expectation is unrealistic and should be changed, or whether you need to work harder to meet it. It’s also important to recognize that you do not have to accept all the expectations other people have for you. It may not always be comfortable to reject others’ ideas about how you should look, feel, or live your life, but it’s a lot better than driving yourself crazy trying to be someone you are not.
- Reach out.If you are feeling lonely, taking an active step to connect with others can help. This might mean calling a friend or family member, volunteering for an organization that helps others, or finding someone else who is also feeling lonely and planning an activity. It is a very common experience to feel isolated at the holidays, and often the connection you make will be just as helpful to the other person as it is to you.
- Take care of yourself.You will be able to cope with challenges more effectively if your physical energy is strong. Think about what will be most helpful in making you feel healthy. Getting lots of sleep, making good food choices, drinking extra water, getting outside for a walk…whatever it is, make it a high priority for yourself. With more energy, challenges that might otherwise seem overwhelming are likely to look smaller and more manageable.
Recognizing the challenges that the holidays can bring and taking steps to deal with them will help you end the year on a more positive note. And joy is contagious. When you are feeling happier, you are likely to influence others to feel better as well. That’s the best gift you can give!