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It’s the Most Wonderful (busy, expensive, exhausting & triggering) Time of the Year… How to stay

It’s hard to believe we are already in the first week of December: with Thanksgiving just behind us, Hanukkah in full force, and Christmas and New Years just around the corner!

For many, the holiday season is full of parties, family visits, vacations and gift exchanges – making it either the most wonderful or the most dreadful time of the year. Even if you love the holidays, chances are, they are also a source of stress as time and financial management can become a juggling act.

The holidays can also be incredibly triggering for a host of issues, including relationships, family, eating & body image, self-esteem, substance & alcohol use and more. Unless you plan on sneaking away to a remote beach somewhere, chances are you will experience some holiday stress.

Here are a few tips on how to stay sane during the holidays:

  1. Set Intentions: holidays are a huge trigger for falling out of control. Try setting intentions about how you want to conduct yourself during the holidays this year. One way to do this is to ask yourself, how do I want to look back on my holidays? How do I want to feel? and What will allow me to feel that way? Make sure to write things down so you can stay accountable to yourself.

  2. Set a Budget: if you know you tend to overspend on gifts, be sure to set a holiday budget. You can also get creative to reduce costs by doing a ‘homemade’ holiday or a secret santa (where each person buys one present, with a cost limit) instead of buying something for everyone in your family.

  3. Practice Mindfulness: meditation is a great tool for this, however, the real mindfulness happens while we are busy living our lives. The more present and aware we are, the better we will be at noticing our thoughts and feelings as they come up and addressing them in a productive way. For example, if you are mindful about your reaction every time someone at your family holiday party asks you, “why aren’t you married yet”, then you can respond calmly instead of snapping or downing too many glasses of wine. This also applies to mindful eating, drinking and spending.

  4. Take Time Out: holidays are often synonymous with increased social gatherings and activities. Make sure to take time out for yourself, this is especially true for introverts (people who need quiet time to restore their energy). Participate in what is important and leave the rest – you will enjoy things more if you are refreshed and others will enjoy you more too!

  5. Ask for Support: sticking with your goals can be difficult so it helps to have someone on your team. Whether it be your partner, your therapist, or your whole family – looping people in to your plan adds accountability and motivation for sticking to it! You also never know who else may be struggling with the same holiday challenges as you- maybe everyone is trying to eat better, for example, and you could implement a ‘healthy holiday’ plan.

Whatever your particular challenges are, I hope these tools will help you survive, and hopefully enjoy, the holidays this year!

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