Tips to Help Keep Calm & De-Stress This Christmas
Christmas time can be joyful yet incredibly stressful and nervewracking at the same time for anyone, but especially for people who have mental health disorders! Being around too many people — even your loved ones — for too long can be anxiety-producing.
We may also have certain ideas about how Christmas Day will turn out inside our heads, but life isn’t predictable and anything can happen or change. And many of us despise change because it can take us out of our comfort zone.
The holidays aren’t always cheerful for everyone either. Some people celebrate the holiday alone since they feel like they don’t have anyone else to be with during the season when family and friends are supposed to surround you and that can sink someone down into the depths of depression. Other people may be grieving the loss of a cherished friend or family member during this time of year.
No matter what your situation is, we have ways to help you cope as Christmas nears! Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, the following tips can help with whatever you do celebrate!
Creating a Budget & Gift Giving
Unless you have tons of money to throw around, creating a realistic budget for what you can actually afford is one way to keep from stressing out about money during this time of year. If you can only afford a limited amount of gifts, that is completely okay and more people would understand than you realize. Only spend what you can afford and nothing more. If you have to, leave the rest of your money or credit cards at home or bring a trusted friend with you who you know will keep you on track with your holiday gift-giving budget.
If you are going to a family function and know that you can only buy gifts for certain people, you have several options as to how to go about giving some people gifts while either getting others later or completely skipping some people this year.
You can try to give the presents before Christmas arrives, you can make an extra trip Christmas Eve and hand out gifts then, you can head to the get together early and disperse presents then or even be the last straggler and wait for everyone to leave. Just try to think about what will work for you and your unique situation!
Have an Escape Plan
The holidays can become overwhelming for so many people. If you aren’t fond of being around other people for long periods of time, always have an escape plan. Your escape plan can even go as far as texting a friend to call you and say that they need you so that you have an excuse to leave.
Escape plans are especially important for people who are trying to stay sober. Alcohol and sometimes even drugs seem to be so much easier to find during the holidays, so just be careful. If you have to leave, you have to leave.
Random Acts of Kindness
Do something nice for someone else this holiday season. There will always be someone who has it worse than you do. No matter what you are going through this holiday season, doing something nice and kind for someone else can make you feel good about yourself.
If you know that there is a homeless man or woman living under the bridge near your house and you have a roof over your head, bring them some food, a drink, and a warm blanket. You could try going to your local homeless shelter and volunteering some of your time. Find something that is going to help another human being because it WILL make you feel good.
Accept That You Will Encounter Some Stress
The holidays wouldn’t be the holidays without some added stress. You should try to get it out of your head that this year things will be 100 percent stress-free because chances are that they won’t be. Just try to accept the fact that you are going to encounter some kind of stressor this holiday season. Try to think of things that might stress you out and what you could to do counter that possible stress.
Learn Some Coping Techniques
Try learning different coping techniques while there is still some time left before Christmas. It’s important to try out different techniques so that you know what works and doesn’t work for you. Plus, what works one day might not work the same way the next. It depends on what is going on at the moment. If you have to, make a list of different techniques such as mindfulness, deep breathing, or even telling your self and repeating that whatever is going on is only temporary and will pass.
Take a Time out
Take some time just for you. If you have to, walk away from a situation. Try finding a space where you can be alone for a little even if it comes down to you having to sit in someone else’s bathroom for a few minutes.
If you are at home and get stressed out preparing for the holiday, stop and do something that you like. Listen to your favorite song and either blast it on some speakers or put on some headphones. Read a little bit of that book that you’ve been meaning to pick up. Take a relaxing bubble bath. Just try to do something that is for you.
Drink in Moderation or Not at All
Alcohol is a depressant and that is a fact. If you are already feeling low, stressed, or even all over the place alcohol could just make things worse for you. So, if you are going to have a drink, drink in moderation. Try not to have more than one or two sinks and sip on them slowly or “baby” them as we used to say.
If you know that you can’t have just one or two perhaps you should consider drinking something else instead of alcohol even if it’s soda. If you know that you will have an issue with being around alcohol, have that escape plan ready!
Be Careful with Your Expectations
Try not to expect everything to go perfectly on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day because there is no such thing as perfect. Be prepared for last-minute changes. If something doesn’t go according to plan and it starts to stress you out, that is when you should pull out your coping mechanisms.
Ahead of time, try to think of how you would cope if the dish you are preparing doesn’t come out right. If you are hosting the Christmas get together yourself, think about what you are going to do once your house is packed with your loved ones. Would you be able to handle that? What are you going to do if your anxiety starts to get the best of you? It’s better to know these answers plus more in advance.
If You Feel like You Will Be Alone This Christmas
Not everyone has a family to turn to, a partner or kids to help make Christmas feel the way it should — joyful and grateful — pull out your phone and start calling your friends. Find somewhere to go so where you will not be all alone for the holiday. Unless you are 100 percent okay with being alone during Christmas. If you’re not okay with being alone, call around until you can find somewhere to go.
All you have to say to your friends or even close co-workers is that you don’t want to be left alone during the holiday. It is that simple. Tell the truth.
Being unorganized during the holiday season can make anyone feel bonkers. Make lists, put important events in your calendar, clean your house if you have to. When things are cluttered and dirty, it can really affect our moods, especially when you have a mental health disorder. Once you get everything situated, you can relax and you may feel a bit better afterward.
Have a Game Plan
If you know for a fact that you are going to run into a stressful situation or something that may trigger you, have a game plan in advance so that you know how you will handle the situation. Don’t try to go at something or someone unprepared. Being unprepared will only increase the stress and anxiety that you are feeling while in the situation.
Get Enough Sleep
If you have plans on both Christmas Eve and Christmas day, make sure that you get enough sleep the nights before the events. Sometimes, it may feel like Christmas increases insomnia. That is something that they should definitely do a study on! I know it is like that for me. So, if you are anything like me, then it is very important to get enough sleep before trying to tackle Christmas get-togethers and parties.
If you have a prescribed a sleep aid, be sure to take it. If you don’t, look for products that may help you sleep such as melatonin, tryptophan, Zzz Quil, diphenhydramine, or pretty much anything that is over the counter for sleep that you trust. Always look up drug interactions, ask your pharmacist, or contact your doctor. Even if you only take it the night before Christmas Eve and on Christmas Eve, that is okay too!
Set Aside Differences for the Holiday
If you have a problem with someone who you know you are going to run into, try to set aside your differences for the holiday. Nobody likes Christmas drama and arguments. Try to keep the peace. If the other person tries to start on you just be the bigger person and walk away from them. You can avoid conflict by walking away, plus, it really aggravates the other person if that is your goal.
Don’t Hold It In, Talk to a Friend
When the holidays — or anything else — are really stressing you out, don’t hold it in. Talk to someone who is close to you. If you have a best friend, call them up. Holding things in can lead to an unwanted explosion after awhile. I am living proof of that. Whatever is going on inside of you, get it out.
Accept People The Way They Are
We can’t change other people no matter how much we want to. You can only change yourself and how you handle situations. If you learn to accept others the way they are, it will release some of your stress. Have you ever heard of the Serenity Prayer? If not here it is:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”-Serenity Prayer
Even if you don’t believe in God, insert your own belief system or remove the word God completely. But leave the rest of the words as they are. Those are some powerful words. You have to learn to accept the things that you cannot change, and other human beings are on that list of things that cannot be changed. However, you can change what you can which is literally only yourself, your thoughts, and your actions. So try to accept others as they are this Christmas.
Try Something Christmas Themed That Is Relaxing
To get into the holiday spirit while trying to relax, find something that you like to do and make it holiday-themed. If you like Diamond Dotz, they sell Christmas themed designs. If you find coloring relaxing look for a Christmas themed coloring book, and if you like watching movies try watching The National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Home Alone, How The Grinch Stole Christmas or anything else that may relax you, make you laugh, and get you into the holiday spirit!
Remember to Practice Self-Care
Some people get so wrapped up in getting things prepared for the holiday that they forget to take care of themselves as well. Make sure that you take time for yourself, take care of your personal hygiene needs, take your medications, and whatever else you have to do to take care of yourself.
Put yourself first for a little bit, which may be challenging for people who have young children that demand attention all the time. But taking care of yourself is very important for your mental health.
Talk to Your Doctor
If you are going through a bout of depression, severe anxiety, feeling off, going through a bad manic episode, or anything else and you feel like you can’t control any of it, talk to your doctor as soon as possible. If you are on meds, perhaps they could get adjusted or even changed if necessary.
It might feel like this season just plays with your mood, especially with less daylight come evening time for some people. But you should always talk to your doctor or therapist when you aren’t feeling right.
Create a Christmas Gratitude List
If you are feeling a little blue this holiday season, try creating a Christmas gratitude list on paper with a pen and write down everything little thing that you are grateful for. You should include things like:
- I am gratful for vision
- I am grateful that I woke up today
- I am gratful I can breathe
Feel free to borrow those and come up with more of your own. Before you realize it you have a large list of this good thing in your life.
Be Honest If You Can’t Do Something & Don’t Take on Too Much
Some of us love to help others, but sometimes it can become a little too much for us when we take on too much. Try to slow down and think about whether or not you are actually able to realistically do something.
Make a list of the things that you have to do and prioritize them. If there is something on your list that you know you aren’t able to do or handle then be honest about it instead of trying to tackle yet another task. Only take on what you can handle to help keep your stress at a minimum.
Journal! Journal! Journal!
Journaling is an excellent way to get things out. It is a great way to help manage your stress level as well. It is beneficial for everyone and usually recommended by therapists. Even if you don’t know what to write you can just start by writing whatever comes to your mind until the real stuff starts to flow out of you.
RELATED: Journaling To Manage Emotions
Subscribe to My Bipolar Mind below to stay up-to-date on all of our posts!
Samantha is the author of "My Bipolar Mind: You're not alone," she is also a freelance writer, blogger, and mental health advocate who runs and manages her own mental health blog MyBipolarMind.com.