There’s a lot to love about the holiday season: presents, festive meals, and time spent with loved ones. However, for some people, this time of year can also be stressful and challenging. Spending time with family can be exciting, exhausting, and everything in between. If you live with feelings of anxiety, depression, or other mental health concerns, the stress of the holidays might seem even greater than usual. The good news is that there are ways to make these occasions easier to manage:

Plan Your Time and Space

When you’re visiting family, you may feel the need to be “on” all the time, in order to make sure everyone is happy and everything goes smoothly. If this is the case, there’s a good chance you’re neglecting your own needs and preferences. If this sounds familiar, talk to the people you are visiting so that everyone knows what will work best. Be open with your feelings, and be yourself. If you prefer time alone or time with just one person, that’s okay. You might prefer to avoid certain topics of conversation or even certain rooms in the house. If that’s the case, make that clear with open communication.

Build Support with a Helper

One of the best ways to manage stress related to visiting family during the holidays is to build support with a helper. If you’re visiting family, you can bring a friend with you. This person can help by taking care of your needs, helping to care for your relative’s needs, or a combination of both. Having a close friend with you during the holidays can make a big difference in how well you manage the experience.

Take Care of Yourself

One of the best things you can do while visiting family during the holidays is to take care of yourself. This means getting enough sleep, eating well, and finding time for self-care (i.e. make time for the things you love). If you’re visiting family, it’s especially important to find ways to be alone, even if you just go for a walk with your dog. This will allow you to let go of the stresses of the day and reset your energy. If you don’t have time alone, you may find that you’re more easily triggered. In that case, you might want to bring calming tools with you, such as fidget toys, headphones, or apps that help you calm down. One thing you can do to take care of yourself and reduce stress is to identify ways in which your family might be challenging for you. By identifying the challenges, you can be proactive in creating solutions ahead of time.

Find Ways to Enjoy Yourself

It may be difficult to find ways to enjoy yourself while visiting family during the holidays. However, if you’re able to find even a small amount of time to fit in things that you personally enjoy, you’ll be better off. It may be helpful to think about the kinds of things you enjoy outside of the holidays, such as certain books, websites, or activities. If you enjoy cooking, for example, you could volunteer to make a holiday meal for a local organization that serves people who have special needs or are food insecure. If you enjoy art, you could bring supplies and offer to paint something for a friend.

The holidays are a time to spend with family and loved ones, but the hustle and bustle can quickly become overwhelming. The best way manage any stressors is to plan ahead, make changes to the environment, and use different coping strategies.

If you or someone you love needs help preparing for the social pressures of the holidays, please consider reaching out to Zumbro Valley Health Center. We are here for you. Happy Holidays from your friends at ZVHC.