Holiday Burnout or Stressed/Depressed for the Holidays

grayscale photo of woman
Photo by Rafiz R. Fera on Pexels.com

 

So lately I’ve been feeling a little anxious and stressed (and yes this can happen to even those who don’t have little ones!)… and I’ve even felt a touch sad. It took me awhile to pinpoint why I was feeling this way…  It is a wonderful time of year where we try to fit in everything. We catch up with friends, do lots of seasonal activities, buy presents that are usually outside of our normal budget, write cards that we hope to personalize, and of course we see family… any of which (or all of which) can stress us the heck out! It’s a lot. Most of us are eating poorly because I know  that I personally have a hard time turning down a candy or a cookie on a regular Tuesday afternoon, let alone during the month of December. (Folks I am pretty sure I gained 8 pounds in the last two weeks… and that’s me being restrained. And New Years resolutions aside I will get back in gear but right now I am going to enjoy that damn frosted cookie.)

Anyway, I hope to write another post for this week, maybe something a little more jolly…. but I have been feeling stressed and a touch depressed despite my best efforts to be in the Christmas spirit, and doing things for self-care. I thought maybe you might need to hear that someone else who is smiling and loving Christmas, someone who doesn’t have the pressures of making Christmas happen for little ones… is feeling this way.  So if you are feeling this way… know that you aren’t alone. (Even if I was feeling purely happy and Christmassy…  I know from other open and honest people that you aren’t alone.)

 

BUT WHY AM I FEELING THIS WAY???!??!?!?!!?… you may say.

Some factors to consider…

Granted I am not a doctor/psychologist/accountant/etc. , I am just sharing what I have seen affect me, what I have read on the matter, and  what has worked for me in certain situations.

  • You are probably consuming a lot more sugar than normal. Sugar in small doses is fine, but large doses mess with our bodies and brains in really crazy ways. (Links below if you want to know more about the effects of sugar.)  
    • Basically what sugar does to the brain is quite similar to an illicit drug, it  sends happy waves to the brain that make our brain start to feel withdrawal and unhappiness without it. NOW, that being said, I am not saying do not consume any sugar… just be mindful that if you consumed a whole batch of sugar cookies or at a stocking full of candy and now feel depressed four hours later… well sugar may be why you are feeling in a funk.
    • HOW TO FEEL BETTER NOW…. Be mindful how much sugar you consume, the best thing I can say to combat this is to drink a lot of water, and try to consume a good amount of veggies. ( Yea I am having a hard time with this one too.) This will not cure the situation but it may make you feel better. You may also want to drink earl grey tea which has mood balancing qualities or even look at Whole Foods for some mood balancing or sugar balancing supplement.
    • How to feel better in the future: Mindfully cut back on the sugar. If you eat a lot of sugar you may have serious withdrawal which means you need to consume more fat, drink lots of water, sleep more, and possibly have some headache medication on hand. You still may feel like utter crap at first but it will help. I have only been mildly successful with this myself.
  • Your budget is already pretty tight on a day to day basis and now you are trying to add hundreds of dollars worth of gift giving that you just don’t have.
    • YIKES! No matter what do, don’t just close your eyes and cover your ears and scream/sing Fa La La La La… because that only means that you will get gut-punched after the holidays. To be clear I am NOT saying to lament and worry. But be aware of how far out of budget you are and take note for the future so you can fix it…
    • How to fix it NOW (sort of) First of all be open and honest with yourself. Do you have wiggle room in your finances? Can you DIY anything? Are there people you can skip exchanging with this year? You can make gifts from the heart (DIY with supplies you already have or supplies that can be used for multiple people). Approach friends who you exchange with and see if you could go out to dinner or to a movie after the holidays are over instead of exchanging physical gifts. If you have a budget for everyone and it just doesn’t seem to be happening try trimming a few dollars from each person’s proposed gift budget. Ask some people if it’s possible not to exchange at all. (If you really must put it on the credit card/s but be mindful of how much you use and what the interest is. Use a credit card that gives you perks that can help balance out these purchases like gas rewards etc.) If it’s really important to you and you have extra time you can get a side job to bring in the extra income. But know that to those who really matter in your life, they will understand, and should care more about your relationship than material goods.
    • How to fix it LATER (or begin to fix, depending on how far down the rabbit hole you went): Be more frugal in the winter months of January, February, and March. Stay in have potluck gatherings with friends instead of going out with friends. If you usually go to the movies, get movies out from your library instead, tightening the belt doesn’t mean a joyless existence. …. Personally, in January I am having a potluck with my gal pals where we are all going to bring a food under $5 and everyone is bringing coloring books over and we are going to chat, chew, and color! ~It’s like those boozy ladies paint nights but without the artistic pressure, the high cost, the obligation to display what you made, and the need to drink wine to feel good about your creation. Ha! ~
    • How to fix it for the FUTURE: In the future and I say this all the time and only half of the time do I actually do it, so don’t stress…. Is… plan ahead! You can put aside money in advance OR you could shop all year long if you know who you will be shopping for!    If you do the shopping all year long you can keep a storage bin under your bed or in another room or closet where you put all these items until you are ready to gift them.  IF you have a budget for the people you shop for such as you know in total you will need approximately $300 for everyone. (example: $60 for mom & Dad each, $80 for nieces & nephews, and $100 for other friends) then try to put aside a little per month such as with the $300 you could try to put aside $30 a month toward the Christmas gift giving fund. (Which if you did that the total would come to  $30 x12 months= $360 which would actually give you an extra $60 wiggle room).
    • FUTURE OPTION 2: If you know that you always purchase items off of Amazon and don’t have the space to store all the items ahead of time. Then create your cart ahead of time (or you can create a private wish-list or “save for later” list). Make it a point to either have the money in your account or purchase amazon gift cards that are specifically for holiday shopping and use those to purchase your gifts. And if you have any excess you can use to purchase something fun for yourself! (Be your own Santa!)
  • You are pulled in multiple directions and you are trying to do everything at once.
    • How to fix it now: It’s time to pick and choose your battles my friend. You are only one person. Know that it is okay to ask for help and okay to skip  something that is considered a “must” or a “tradition”. This year I decided instead of making my homemade salsa for the annual work Holiday party I brought jarred pre-made salsa. Yes it felt completely alien and strange to me but you know not a single coworker complained. I decided it was more important to get out Christmas cards this year than to spend two-three hours on dicing tomatoes.  Same thing, my friend and I have gotten together to make chocolate for a long time, but our schedules and her kitchen remodeling made that impossible this year. So we are hoping to do chocolate for another holiday instead.
    • How to fix it for the future: try to carve away time to do whatever you can in advance. Once again this is planning ahead… it’s hard and I would love to do it more than I actually do but every little bit helps! You know you have some time off in November and Christmas cards are very important to you then you can write them in advance. (And if you wait to mail them after Thanksgiving… no one will know!) If you are hosting Christmas you can purchase nonperishables ahead of time such as crackers, store bought cookies or anything that can last awhile in the freezer such as ice cream, frozen vegetables, etc.. Also pick out the traditions and things that are a MUST and do those, everything else can be a bonus. A “tradition” isn’t worth your sanity.
  • Your FAMILY…umm… well they… STRESS YOU OUT !!!
    • How to fix it (sort of): Limit the amount of time you spend with toxic family members. Maybe limit the amount of time you see them (if you normally attend a 6 hour function try to only attend for 4 hours. If you have multiple get-togethers… try to only attend one or pick the most important to attend). Now that might not be always possible…
    • How to really fix it: KNOW WHAT YOU CAN AND CANNOT CHANGE. Okay so here’s the deal. You cannot change the bad behavior or strange personality quirks of anyone but yourself. (I mean there’s crazy neural linguistic programming but that is a level of manipulation that only expert con-artists use.) ANYWAY. Understand that if a family member always does “blank” and “blank” annoys you. It’s up to you not to be annoyed, instead of expecting/asking them to not do it.  You can only adapt to your surroundings. Modify your behavior and how you react. Acknowledge that certain people always behave a certain way and mentally prepare yourself for this. Anticipate that they may (intentionally or not) trigger your emotions or negative memories. Smile and nod and don’t let them get to you. (This is really hard but really all you can do.) Go in to all family events with an attitude of gratitude. (Thinking “I am grateful that I am who I am” “I am grateful these people birthed me” “I am grateful that this only happens once a year” etc.) Awareness does NOT mean looking for a fight, or giving yourself anxiety by worrying over being triggered etc. (Family does not mean you are required to deal with abuse. See my post of spending Christmas alone if you must truly remove yourself from toxic family members. It is okay to not see family if it means your emotional wellbeing is at stake.— granted this can cause other dramas so as I said before choose your battles wisely. I always recommend writing down lists of pros and cons and realities versus unfounded falsehoods. This way it helps you realize what is truly going on.)
    • NO MATTER WHAT!!!!: Be prepared to give yourself cool down time after an event with crazy family. Make sure you can take a shower, or read or meditate or even just drink a cup of cocoa after. Release the negativity and know that you cannot choose your family, but thankfully you can choose your friends and how much time you spend with your family.
    • IF your issue is with the topics that family brings up (AND NOT Toxic/Triggering/Manipulative Behavior): If your family isn’t toxic but they tend to bring up uncomfortable issues such as “when you having them babies” or “I believe that this politician is the next messiah” or “Anyone one of that particular religion/sexuality/color is sinner or evil and dead to me” or  whatever… then go back to my Bonus: Thanksgiving post (link here) and check out the links I provided there. (Lots of links on how to deal with these people who aren’t technically toxic but totally uncouth. Granted it is geared towards Thanksgiving but the helpful tips still apply!)
    • Also lots of links below for dealing with toxic family.
    • NOTE: If my actual family is reading this… first of all wow I am impressed you read this far into my post. Secondly, you are all freaking crazy. You are, I should know because it takes one to know one… and I love you.
  • Your expectations do not match reality.
    • You are dealing with Christmas perfectionism. You have this magical idea in your head of what the holidays should be like and it isn’t holding up. Perfection is an illusion. For many people it is the striving for this impossible perfection that makes Christmas and other holidays a burden instead of something to enjoy/look forward to.
    • How to fix it (sort of) : Know that life is not like a Hallmark movie. Be thankful of this. You aren’t typecast, you get to live your life the way you want. You don’t have to choose between the family farm, the career of your dreams, and/or the perfect soulmate. (Or maybe you do… if so I really have no idea to help you there… um good luck? Anyway…) Life is messy. Enjoy the little moments and realize that there is no such thing as perfect. If you were to create the perfect picture, it would only be a picture, it would not be reality. If other people are pressuring you to make this perfect reality than rethink those relationships, and realize what you can and cannot control. Take a deep breath, release, and know that it is okay to relax.
    • And perhaps dig deeper…: Are you focusing on this because you feel like you don’t have control in other areas of your life? Are you getting worked up about Christmas because it brings back the happy memories of something you haven’t had in a while.  Don’t be afraid to dig deep and find out why you are focused on the perfection. It’s okay to not have it all together, and it’s okay to miss the past. It’s okay to be what you might think of as “broken”.  Because we are all human, we are all flawed, and Christmas magic can still happen even if you don’t have the “perfect tree” or the matching silverware. Lots of links below about how to help with this.
  • You looked at some social media (such as Facebook, Instagram) or a movie or show… and instead of going oh how lovely or how neat, you got overwhelmed.
    • How to fix it: Acknowledge the feeling and then realize, that what people post on social media almost always has a filter. You are not seeing the whole picture. Just appreciate what you see and do not add it to expectations. And that TV and movies are far from reality.
  • The gift that you are hand making looks nothing like that image on Pinterest and/or isn’t turning how you expected.
    • How to fix it: Take a deep breath. Know that people alter how things look on social media. Know that you don’t know how skilled the person who created the sample is. Know that you are doing your freaking best. It’s okay to give something with a few flaws, then they know it’s homemade! Unless you are a seasoned professional and you are being paid for your near-perfect skills, it’s okay. Most people (the really kind ones that love you) will be thrilled that you took the time to make something no matter it’s condition. Or if you have time and you really do not like it, start over and try again. If this is the first time you are making something like this then it is going to have imperfections, it is okay. You got this!
  • I just feel exhausted.
    • (Well that can be attributed to a lot of the points above) but it could also be that you aren’t taking the time to truly take care of yourself. Make sure to give yourself enough rest. Release unrealistic goals and expectations. Drink a lot of water. Take some naps. Take an extra shower. Ask for help when you need it.

 

Sometimes you might just feel stressed or sad and you can’t attribute it to any of the things above. Maybe you feel like the holidays are just moving to fast. Maybe it just doesn’t feel like the holidays to you. That’s okay too. It happens. Know that you control how you feel, do what you need to change how you feel. Acknowledge how you are feeling and sit and think about it for a little bit. Maybe make a list of what would make it feel like Christmas or what you could do to make yourself feel better. (And really you’d be surprised how often the culprit is sugar overload.)

No matter what remember that you got this!

And that I wish for you a stress free, relaxed and happy, holiday.

 

General Holiday Stress:

https://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20306655,00.html

https://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/features/beating-holiday-stress#1

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-the-age-anxiety/201111/10-common-holiday-stresses-and-how-cope-them-0

https://www.psychologies.co.uk/5-ways-stress-free-christmas

 

Dealing with Crazy/Toxic Family at the Holidays:

https://www.oprah.com/omagazine/dealing-with-a-dysfunctional-family-during-the-holidays/all

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/spycatcher/201411/ten-ways-keep-family-members-ruining-your-holidays

http://1061evansville.com/8-ways-to-deal-with-family-during-christmas/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/friendship-20/201511/6-tips-avoiding-family-drama

https://www.headspace.com/blog/2016/11/25/toxic-family/ (toxic family in general)

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeannecroteau/2018/04/30/5-strategies-for-dealing-with-family-drama/#6284583b7a4e (toxic family in general)

http://www.marcandangel.com/2015/05/03/10-things-to-remember-about-toxic-family-members/  (toxic family in general)

Christmas perfectionism:

http://www.drjuliehanks.com/2011/12/17/do-you-suffer-from-christmas-perfectionism/

https://www.verywellmind.com/holiday-perfectionism-3144644

https://www.psychologies.co.uk/5-ways-stress-free-christmas

https://bestlifeonline.com/christmas-stress/

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/how-to-let-go-of-perfectionism-and-actually-enjoy-the-holidays_n_585c203ae4b0de3a08f48a18

https://cynthiacavanaugh.com/dispelling-the-myth-of-perfection-at-christmas/

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20180219-toxic-perfectionism-is-on-the-rise  (the general toxicity of perfectionism)

 

How Sugar affects us:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/neuronarrative/201709/the-link-between-sugar-and-depression-what-you-should-know

https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/sugar-and-depression#sugar-addiction

https://www.brainmdhealth.com/blog/what-do-sugar-and-cocaine-have-in-common/

https://www.verywellmind.com/how-sugar-affects-the-brain-4065218

 

 

 

 

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