While the holidays can be a time of fun and festivities, they can be stressful and unhappy for some. You may not be stable financially, you're estranged from family, or maybe you can't take time off to celebrate. Instead of getting into a slump about your situation, try some of these tips to make your season brighter.
1) Control your expectations. Happiness during the holidays rides on a host of elements which are often out of your hands. You can't control how your family will behave, what gifts you get, or which parties you're invited to. There is so much to do, so many people to deal with, so many deadlines, so much money to spend. Knowing that expectations can get out of hand, try being mindful of this. Remember—it's just the holidays. If you've got your health, friends, family, and a roof over your head, you've already got a lot to be happy for.
2) Come up with stress strategies. Rather than laboring over every difficulty this holiday season, figure out solutions instead. If money's a problem, put a cap on everyone's gift giving. Love throwing parties but hate cleaning up? Ask people in advance to help you out. Dreading seeing certain family members? Try bringing someone to ease the situation. There are ways out of every jam; you just need to get creative about it.
3) Don't isolate. This is important—especially if your family isn't around. Treat your friends as your second family and make it a point to spend time with them. New to a town and don't have many friends? Consider attending a Meetup event, go to a movie, treat yourself to a spa, do some volunteer work. Not only will this get you out of the house, you stand a great chance of meeting someone who would appreciate your company.
4) Don't overspend. Especially if money is tight. An avalanche of gifts can't buy happiness. Create a holiday budget and stick to it. The last thing you need is new credit card debt to ring in the New Year.
5) Keep your eating in check. It's typical to indulge over the holidays, but if you're depressed the extra sugar and fat will zap your energy and contribute to your poor mood. Same thing with alcohol. It may seem relaxing in the short term, but its physiological effect can compound stress and depression. Lastly if you do overeat/overdrink, try balancing it out with healthy food and plenty of water the next day.
6) Exercise regularly. This time of year isn't an excuse to ditch your exercise routine, particularly if you're eating more. Taking a walk before or after a huge holiday meal is a great way to burn off the extra calories. If working out doesn't appeal to you, make a bargain with yourself that you only have to exercise for 10 minutes. Your heart rate will start to rise, and most likely you'll stick it out longer because you're already doing it.
7) Plan in advance. It can be stressful to battle the holiday crowds. If you're dreading dealing with swarms of people, try shopping at odd hours. Feeling particularly ambitious? Get all your shopping done before Thanksgiving. Same thing goes for party prep; plan those details out as much as you can, saving the minor tasks for event day. As for the parties you attend, consider buying something in bulk before the holidays so don't show up empty-handed (e.g., a case of wine, fun tchotchkes, candy, etc.).
8) Get sufficient light exposure. Seasonal Affective Disorder (depression during the fall and winter months) is common, affecting up to 20% of Americans. SAD is combatted by regular exposure to bright light, particularly florescent lighting, for approximately 30 minutes daily. Phototherapy is available in the form of light boxes which are 25 times as bright as living room light. Antidepressants might need to be temporarily taken to get through this period as well.
9) Keep social media at bay. While it's true that most people only post their happiest moments on social media, it's still easy to lose perspective. If you find certain holiday posts upsetting you, sign out of social media and connect with people you really care about. That will mean more to you than seeing party posts from people you barely keep in contact with.
10) Know that the holidays will pass. If your holidays aren't ideal this year, take solace in knowing that it's just a few weeks before your life can go back to normal again. In the meantime, decide what will make you happy and do it. If that means staying home on New Year's Eve and binge-watching Netflix, eating a couple slices of pizza, and having a glass of champagne, so be it!