If you are experiencing increased levels of stress, anxiety, or depression due to the holiday season here are some helpful tips to use and keep in mind as you are making holiday plans:
Manage expectations: as mentioned earlier, keep the “shoulds” for yourself and others in check. Unrealistic and increased expectations during the holidays add unnecessary stress and tension.
Empathy for person suffering: you or your family member may want to participate in holiday activities but is unable or cannot due to challenges. Try to keep this in mind and be compassionate with yourself and others.
Shorten visits when possible: A brief, good visit is better than long, bad one.
In response to losses, allow yourself and others to have their grief responses. Create new traditions or carry on old traditions related to the lost loved one.
Be in the moment. Allow yourself to be in the “here and now” instead of projecting into the future playing out worst case scenarios. Practice grounding techniques that bring you back into the present moment such as focusing on your breath and looking around the room reminding yourself, today is _____, it’s ____ o’clock; as you look around the room, name some things that you see out loud.
Limit interactions that are triggering: keep it simple.
Accept small successes
Be in control of yourself: Take frequent breaks, don’t engage in conflict, and walk away from triggering situations.
Set clear boundaries and respect others’ boundaries: Have some scripted responses prepared for potential issues and remind yourself that it’s okay to say “no”.
Coping Skills: you may have to dig deep into your toolbox of coping strategies during holiday family visits. Be prepared with some easy to use, effective tools you can draw upon in the moment when needed. Practice using them in the days leading up to the event.
Tips for children, teens, and those with disabilities
For children, teens, and those with disabilities balancing structure with routine is key. Know your child. For some children, it's best to just surprise them with something, rather than have a big build up because they become overly excited, anxious, or dysregulated and then the experience doesn’t unfold as planned. If their schedule needs to shift because of holiday plans, reassure them that this change is temporary. Try to see the disruption as an opportunity to practice being flexible and in the moment.
● Prepare children for changes in their routine.
● Avoid overstimulation, which can make it hard to regulate.
● Allow for downtime (plan breaks and time away from holiday-related activities during the day.)
● Be in the moment (challenging moments are an opportunity to practice being flexible, mindful, and open to enjoying experiences in the moment.)
Mental Health Resources
If you or a family member experiences a mental health emergency call 911 or go to your local emergency room.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Crisis Text Line: Text Hello to 741741 (in the US or UK)
Seek Help If You Need It
At Milestones Counseling & Consulting Services in Columbia MD wellbeing is our priority 365 days of the year. If you need help taking control of the holidays and dealing with holiday triggers, we invite you to reach out and learn more about our services.