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You CAN put the happy in holidays!

You CAN put the happy in holidays!

The holidays should be a festive time filled with joy and peace, but sometimes the dizzying array of demands – shopping, wrapping, and baking – results in stress and even depression. In fact, a recent study revealed that nearly 90 percent of Americans feel some kind of anxiety and/or stress during the holidays.

“Stress and the holidays often seem bound together,” says Elizabeth Rogalin, an outpatient therapist at LiveWell Counseling (CHCCC). “We have higher expectations during the holidays than any other time of the year, but feeling anxious and worried about upcoming celebrations isn’t inevitable if we try to keep those expectations in check. It’s human nature to hope plans turn out well, but when we expect perfection from ourselves – in the gifts we give, the food we plan to serve, or the schedules we try to adhere to – we’re setting ourselves up for worry and disappointment. It can be calming to remind ourselves that perfection is not achievable, not by anyone. Even more effective is to scale back what we’re trying to accomplish from the start of the holiday season.”

COVID-19 may compound holiday stress this year, but it may also lead to the creation of new and meaningful traditions.

“This year is a great opportunity for revise holiday expectations. It’s not likely that we’ll host dozens of relatives in one room or sit cozily with all our friends. And if we’ve learned anything from this pandemic, it’s to expect the unexpected. We’ve also learned how beneficial it can be to simply reach out to someone we’re thinking of and let him or her know that they’re not alone,” Ms. Rogalin says. “Hopefully, the smaller holidays we’re likely to have this season will help us hold our expectations – and as a result, our stress level – lower for years to come.”

So take a deep breath, utilize the tips and coping strategies which follow, wear a face covering, and practice social distancing. You can put the happy back in holidays!

  • Always remember the real meaning of the season. Participate in services virtually or, if permitted, in person at your church. Listen to Christmas hymns. Read Christmas scriptures. Write down what you are thankful for. You’ll feel better spiritually, mentally, and physically.
  • Acknowledge that the holidays don’t need to be perfect. It is normal for traditions and rituals to change through the years. Keep some, and embrace new ones, especially this year.
  • Maintain healthy habits. Don’t consider the holidays as a free-for-all. Exercise regularly, get sufficient sleep, eat wisely, and step outdoors to soak in some sunshine. Avoid overindulging in sweets, beverages, and calorie-rich foods. You’ll feel better physically and mentally.
  • Make a list and check it twice. Set aside time for shopping, baking, decorating, etc. Carefully review recipes and create a grocery list to avoid running out for missing ingredients. When possible, cook and freeze food ahead of time.
  • Assign decorating, wrapping, and/or cooking tasks to everyone in your household.
  • Adhere to a budget. An avalanche of gifts doesn’t lead to happiness. Consider making homemade gifts.
  • Pay it forward. Donate to a charity, or sponsor a needy family by providing a tree, food, and gifts.
  • Make time for yourself every day. Take a walk, listen to music, or read a book to clear your mind and restore inner calm.
  • Lend a helping hand through COVID-safe volunteer opportunities. You’ll also be giving back to the community.
  • If a loved one recently passed, the holidays may intensify feelings of sadness and grief. Christian Health (CHCC)’s monthly Faith & Grief Luncheons are currently on pause, but virtual support groups are taking place. Open to people of all faiths, these gatherings provide support and strength through sharing, scripture, prayer, and reflection.
  • If anxiety and depressive symptoms persist, seek professional help. LiveWell Counseling helps clients of all ages – from children to seniors – learn coping skills they need to function in all areas of community. A wide range of outpatient treatment modalities are offered, including individual and family therapy.

For more information about LiveWell Counseling, contact Karen Hockstein at (201) 848-4463 or khockstein@chccnj.org, or visit ChristianHealthCare.org. For more information about virtual Faith & Grief support groups, visit FaithAndGrief.org.