The presents may be all wrapped, the tree decorated, the table set and carols play softly in the background. But then life inevitably happens.
“We all have heightened expectations of the holidays,” says Mills-Peninsula licensed marriage and family therapist Linda Gore-Webster. “But, inevitably the baby gets sick, Mom falls and hurts herself, or Uncle Henry goes on a drinking binge.”
The months between Halloween and the New Year don’t have to be one long blur of obligations, disappointments and burnout, says Gore-Webster. Below are some practical tips for calibrating your holiday expectations and avoiding burnout this season. But remember: they only work if you use them. Be bold in making your holidays work for you and your family.
1. Adjust Your Plans
There may be traditions you really want to keep – keep them!
If a tradition no longer suits you, change it - or graciously decline events that will bring more stress than joy.
Be flexible and fluid in your plans – nothing is set in stone.
For example, consider moving your holiday party till after the New Year, when you have more time. This can help with post-holiday letdown, too, by spreading the celebration into the new year.
2. Spread the Work/Ease the Work
Instead of taking on the formal family meal single-handedly, call for a potluck and limit the gathering to specific hours.
Suggest a gift exchange instead of buying gifts for all in your group. Others may welcome the change.
3. Care for Your Physical Health
During this season, get enough sleep – don’t skimp.
Keep up with your exercise routine. At a minimum, take a 20-minute walk each day.
Don’t forget to eat! Stay with regular meals, even on super busy days.
4. Tend Your Emotional Health
If you can’t be with family or friends this holiday, find ways to be around other people – volunteer somewhere, or reach out to others who are “orphaned” this season.
Keep your expectations soft and realistic – enjoy small moments of time with family and friends; don’t become fixated on the “perfect holiday.”
If your holiday mood is very down, with changes in eating or sleeping, lack of enthusiasm and feeling tearful often, you may be experiencing depression. Reach out for professional help.