In an ideal world, the holidays would mean spending time around a candlelit dinner of honey ham, roasted chicken, mulled wine, and sweet desserts, while the laughter and chatter of our loved ones fills the air.
A time for families and friends to look back on the past year and speak fondly of memories, open special handpicked gifts, and play light, not-too-competitive games.
Unfortunately, this usually isn’t exactly how it goes. There are pestering questions, political debates, judgements about how we live our lives, relationship pressures, overdrinking, heightened emotions, and other hidden, triggering landmines.
This causes the holidays to be especially challenging for those of us trying hard to improve our mental health and stay on the right track.
Below are some useful tips for managing stress during the holidays and avoiding triggers successfully:
Practice mindful eating
If you’ve dealt with an eating disorder in the past, watching everyone gorge on delicious food may bring up some difficult emotions. You might be uncomfortable watching everyone overdo it on the meals and alcohol, or maybe your aunt is commenting on your eating habits and doesn’t know how to take a hint. Choose to eat only the foods you want to and stop eating when you’re full. Tell anyone who bugs you to mind their own business and politely excuse yourself from the table when you’re done eating.
Have a plan
Be proactive by identifying one safe person in your family who you can go to for an escape. Maybe have a wink, a look, or even a code word when one or both of you need to slip out to the back porch for a breather. It can help to take a step back when you’re feeling emotions rising, or just to get away from an intense game of Monopoly.
Declare an exit
Plant the seeds earlier in the evening that you have an important task to do the next day. This will give you a great excuse to bow out early when you’ve had enough. And if you feel like staying longer and you’re enjoying yourself, that’s fine too! No one will even notice or remember you had fictional plans just in case.
Pencil in time for yourself
Hosting relatives in your small apartment? Feeling a little suffocated? Make sure you take the time for self-care in between your charcuterie preparation and cocktail making. Dive into the back bedroom and draw yourself a quick, 30-minute bath. Decompress. Blame the dogs and get out of the house for an afternoon walk by yourself. These little “me” moments will go a long way after a week of hosting and entertaining.
Let go of the personal
When your uncle seems judgmental about the fact that you’re still unmarried, try being present, politely listening, and nodding. It may be tempting to get offended or take his opinion personally, but when you remind yourself that this is not about you at all, it can be easier to swallow. Say you happen to know that his own marriage is in a rocky place, so you figure his unresolved feelings about marriage are his own projections. We never know what someone else who is judging us is going through in their own life. The best thing we can do in situations like this is to let the other person talk, because it’s clearly what they want and need to do.
From all of us here at Grouport, we hope these tips and strategies helped!
Have a happy holiday and a wonderful New Year!