A Holiday survival guide

While holidays are supposed to be joyous family occasions, for many they are anything but. A recent survey revealed that 65 per cent of parents claim holidays are more stressful than being at work, and all mental health institutions recognise that there is a significant increase in the number of people seeking help at this time. Albert Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, so if your family gatherings usually end in tears, don’t expect any difference this year,- unless you try to change things!

Don't expect people to change, and remember that your life will go on whether they change or not, but you can adjust and adapt to what you expect of them. If you find family holiday gatherings depressing, stop putting unreasonable pressure on yourself to be happy. Remember, the night will end, and you will go home, and your life will be waiting for you at the other side of the gathering. Again, if you are wrong and you end up enjoying yourself, what a delightful mistake you've made! Maybe this is your moment to be generous and bring the cheer and spread it around. You'll leave knowing that you made a contribution to the greater good.

There is no right or wrong way to handle the day. Some may wish to follow family traditions, while others may choose to change. Be careful of "shoulds" - it is better to do what is most helpful for you and your family, and if a situation looks especially difficult over the holidays, then don’t get involved if possible. Initiate activity yourself; do not wait for others.

If Uncle George is just too unbearable then get up, sit somewhere else, and focus on a new conversation. Remember that often the people that drive us crazy are often just doing the best they can, thinking that they are trying to help and are doing a great service. He doesn't want to be the bad guy, but perhaps it's all he knows how to do, or it's the best he can do in the moment.

Baking goodies and cleaning the house can get out of proportion, so if these chores are enjoyable, go ahead, but not to the point that it is overtiring. Either buy baked goods, or go without this year. Keep in mind the feelings of your children and/or family members and try to make the holiday season as joyous as possible for them.

Plan some other activities during the remainder of the holiday that you know will be more satisfying to you; try to do the things that are very special and /or important to you. Once you have made the decision on the role you and your family will play during the holidays, let your relatives and friends know. Time spent by yourself can also be rewarding.

Be more physically active, as physical activity is one of the best ways to make yourself feel better. Recent research indicates that exercise stimulates the production of endorphins, mood-elevating chemicals produced by the body. Take a walk, go to the gym, get out in the country, or take on a project that calls for physical activity, and watch your intake of alcohol.

If you feel ‘stuck’ set yourself one or two specific, manageable goals every day - even if they are as simple as cleaning out a cupboard or drawer, or writing a letter. The satisfaction you can get from completing these tasks adds to a sense of well being and self respect.

Lastly, if you are having trouble sleeping, have lost your appetite, have continuing thoughts of hopelessness and despair, don’t be ashamed to seek professional help. All professionals know that this can be a difficult and lonely time, even when you are surrounded by people, but the help is there, so allow yourself to reach out for it.


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