The holidays are usually a time for food, family and relaxation. They provide a chance to connect with your loved ones and indulge in familiar traditions, which many of us look forward to year-round. However, Thanksgiving and winter break can also come with a unique set of challenges that can strain even the most zen person.
If you’re wondering how you’re going to get through the holiday season with your mental health intact, we’ve got you covered. Below, you’ll find some of the most common Thanksgiving and winter break stressors and how to deal with them.
Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel days of the year. The airports and roads are both packed as millions of Americans trek across the country to see their friends and family for the holidays. If you are flying or driving this year, you’re already likely gearing up for potential flight delays, long security lines and baggage issues. Here are some ways you can make the experience less stressful.
- Prioritize Your Health
- Most airlines don’t require face masks or proof of vaccination to travel anymore, but don’t let your guard down. Although flying is considered relatively low risk, it’s still important to be cautious about COVID-19 and limit your potential exposure. Before your flight, consider getting a booster shot if you haven’t already, try to avoid large crowds and continue to mask up in public areas.
- Plan Ahead
- Waiting until the last minute to plan your trip is a surefire way to increase your cortisol levels. If you’re traveling this year, stay prepared to avoid high ticket prices, flight delays and last-minute hiccups. Buy your tickets in advance, pack your bags and figure out where you’re staying to avoid future headaches. On the day of your departure, check to make sure your flight is on time and give yourself enough time to get to the airport so you won’t feel rushed.
2. Family Dynamics
For some people, a lot of holiday stress comes from family drama. Whether it's challenging family dynamics or that one toxic relative that drives you up the wall, dealing with it can be difficult. You can’t control other people’s actions, but you can protect your own mental health and wellness from any tension that crops up this season.
- Set Boundaries
- It’s important to set boundaries with our family members. For example, if you don’t want to discuss your love life with your parents, make sure that’s clear to avoid an uncomfortable situation. If differing political views are going to cause chaos, you can have some ground rules in place to keep things from going off the rails.
- Take Breaks as Needed
- It can be tempting to spend every spare minute with your family members, especially if you don’t see them that often. However, don’t worry if you need some time to yourself to relax, reset and recharge your mind. If you feel guilty, remember that this is actually a loving thing to do that makes the time you do spend with your family even better.
3. Disrupted Routines
Thanksgiving and the holiday season can throw a wrench into your daily routine. You might be leaving campus for winter break or planning a trip to visit friends and family, which while exciting, can sometimes feel like a chore. Fortunately, there are ways you can balance these interruptions to limit your stress and avoid throwing yourself off too much.
- Stick to Your Good Habits
- You can feel more at ease by maintaining some semblance of your normal routine if you’re traveling this season. For example, continuing to practice your nightly skincare or hygiene regimen can keep you grounded, while making sure you remain on the same sleep schedule will help you stay healthy and mentally focused.
- Acknowledge Your Feelings
- Disruptions like leaving campus for winter break or traveling out-of-state are stressful for most people, and that’s okay. If you’re feeling anxious or worried, take the time to acknowledge your feelings and sit with them. You might have some readjusting to do and that doesn’t always happen right away, so be kind to yourself.
4. The Stress of Entertaining
It can be daunting to prepare such a large feast on Thanksgiving and make sure that your guests are happy, comfortable and satisfied. Even if you’re a willing and excited host, the stress of entertaining can increase dramatically during the holiday season. Here are some ways you can simplify things to alleviate the pressure on yourself.
- Have a Game Plan
- For many people, the pressure of cooking and cleaning for a crowd is one of the biggest stress points of the holiday season. Things can get chaotic quickly and the pressure only increases without a game plan. If you’re the host, plan ahead as much as possible so things go smoothly once everyone arrives. If you’re visiting, ask if there’s anything you can do to lighten their workload.
- Scale Things Back
- Holiday dinners don’t have to be complicated. Often, the best meals are those that stick to the basics with tried-and-true family favorites. If you want to experiment a little, try to limit yourself to just a few dishes. You can also ask other relatives to pitch in and make their own recipes to bring to the table.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
- Thanksgiving dinner and holiday celebrations should be a team effort. If you’re hosting this year and worried about being stuck in the kitchen, don't be afraid to ask for help and delegate shopping, meal prep, cooking or clean-up tasks to your guests. This can make sure that you’ll also be able to spend quality time with your loved ones.
Everyone’s family is different. We all have our own traditions and routines that we look forward to each year, and our own unique challenges. While certain self-care practices can help you manage the stress of the holiday season, sometimes, things can feel too overwhelming. If you’re struggling with your mental wellness this Thanksgiving and winter break, Sokya offers professional mental health services such as therapy, groups, coaching and more, available online, in person or through our mobile app. Click here to complete our online contact form or call us today at 866-65-SOKYA to connect with a Care Coordinator and explore your treatment options.