18 Dec Coping with Holiday Stress
You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen… But do you know Stress and Loneliness and Conflict and Expectations?? We do! For many of us, the holidays are not so festive and restorative but stressful for many many reasons. Here are some things to keep in mind during the holiday season to help maintain psychological well-being:
Families are stressful.
Triggers for conflict include:
- Family dynamic role reversions – no matter who you actually are now or how successful or amazing you might be outside of your family, family dynamics often return the second you step back into mum and dad’s orbit or grandma and grandpa’s house and you’re instantly back into the role you were in growing up – the “caretaker” or the “problem child” or the “successful one” – which probably is no longer an accurate representation of your current self
- Invasive questions re: lifestyle, relationships, and career path etc.
- High expectations for togetherness/happiness
- Keep in mind we are living in polarized times, lots of topics are tense including sexuality, gender identity, climate change, dietary choices, and so on
Here’s some tips for coping with family stress:
- Maintain wellness routine, keep to your normal sched if you can, get good sleep, continue exercise, meditation, your normal healthy habits etc.
- Limit alcohol consumption especially around triggering family members
- Establish boundaries for space – plan time outs for yourself and build in recharge time, whatever that is for you
- Look for ways to build bonds with family outside of just talking, such as cooking or baking together
- Remember, we don’t get to choose our family, but you can choose your friends and your community – find time to connect with them to fill up your cup
- Communicating hurt with “I feel” statements versus “you are” statements, such as “It really upsets me when you continue to do X” instead of “You are such a jerk”
- Prepare answers to invasive questions
- Try giving family members or friends the benefit of the doubt – many people still don’t know how to talk about gender identity or being gay or bi or climate change or being vegan etc., so it’s possible their questions are coming off as rude/insensitive but might be a reflection of curiosity and ignorance and your responses can help educate them
- Manage expectations/acknowledge the frustration that we wish everyone was as woke about complicated topics, but that some family members/friends are “cooked” and that we’re probably not going to change minds over Christmas dinner
Holidays can be lonely.
Even if you have a big family or do get along relatively well with your family, emotional loneliness happens when we’re not close with family. For many, though, not being with family or not having a special someone to celebrate with can breed loneliness.
Here’s some tips to help combat holiday loneliness:
- Avoid social media as much as possible, research tells us it’s linked with increased feelings of loneliness and depression1
- Volunteer – shelters, hospitals, local charities – get involved with people and make yourself feel valued and purpose driven, which research tells us is an antidote to loneliness2
- Practice gratitude (check out this article to learn how to start a gratitude journal) – it’s hard to focus on what’s missing when we’re thinking about what we have
- Remember loneliness is not the same as being alone, so how can you enjoy your own company during these holidays? Cooking, baking, gifting things to yourself etc.
- Talk to a professional in therapy – can book in with one of our practitioners online at www.couplestherapymelbourne.com.au or 1300 784 184 to schedule an appointment for individual or couples counselling, or go to the Australian Psychological Society website to find a psychologist near you at www.psychology.org.au
Here is a list of phone/online resources to support you during the holidays:
- Lifeline: 24-hour crisis support for anyone/any issue at 13 11 14
- Griefline: 12 p.m. to 3 a.m. phone counselling for support with grief and loss at 1300 845 745
- Switchboard: telephone and online counselling for members of the LGBTQIA+ community from 3 p.m. to 12 a.m. 7 days a week at 1800 184 527 or chat online at www.qlife.org.au
- Kid’s Helpline: 24/7 A counselling service for kids and young people at 1800 551 800
- 1800 RESPECT: 24/7 National sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service at 1800 737 732
- Gamblers Helpline: For anyone struggling with gambling urges at 1800 858 858
1 Kim, J., LaRose, R., & Peng, W. (2009). Loneliness as the cause and the effect of problematic Internet use: The relationship between Internet use and psychological well-being. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 12(4), 451-455.
2 Dawn C Carr, Ben Lennox Kail, Christina Matz-Costa, Yochai Z Shavit, Does Becoming A Volunteer Attenuate Loneliness Among Recently Widowed Older Adults?, , Volume 73, Issue 3, March 2018, Pages 501–510