The holidays are a stressful time for a lot of people. Those of us who experience social anxiety are bombarded with situations that toss us into a sea of people – parties, shopping for gifts, family get-togethers. Many people leave home to spend the holidays elsewhere and the simple fact of being out of their familiar environment can be stressful. Not all family members get along, so sometimes just sharing the same space with an estranged person can wreak havoc. So with all this stress, how can you survive the holidays? Here are some tips:
1. Remember that the only thing you can control is the way you react.
Maybe your cousin makes snide comments about your weight, maybe your grandma grills you about the fact that you aren’t married yet – remember that you are in control of your reaction. You cannot control their actions or words. Before you react, take a step back and think about what your own actions may do in the situation. If it’s not going to be a positive outcome, maybe rethink what you want to do or say.
2. Try to stick to a normal sleep schedule.
Nothing can affect my moods more than the amount of sleep I get. You may cross time zones, you may be staying with or have house guests who have different sleep patterns than you do. Remember that it is important to take care of yourself and excuse yourself to bed when you need to, or get up when you need to. If necessary explain to your company that it is important for you to get X amount of sleep. More than likely if you are spending the holidays with them, they will understand.
3. Get some air.
I like to take breaks from the commotion of the holidays. I step outside on the porch or go for a walk. Being outside is calming to me, but maybe that isn’t an option for you. When it isn’t, simply escape to a bathroom. No one will bother you there. Just take a few minutes to take some deep breaths before returning to the party.
4. Keep your expectations low.
I saw my psychiatrist last week and he told me that the problem for a lot of his patients is that they set their expectations for the holidays too high and then when they are not met the patient ends up in a bad psychological state. Remember that no family is perfect, no partner is perfect, children are not perfect. I can guarantee that not everything will go as you plan it so try to start out with lower expectations. Know going in to the situation that there will be bumps and mess-ups and then it won’t be as devastating when these things happen.
5. Try to enjoy yourself.
Focus on the positive. So your cousin is mean, maybe your nephew adores you. Focus on him. Maybe you can’t stand your family, but love the Christmas ham. Focus on the food. Maybe you don’t get the present you were hoping for, but gave your mother a card that made her tear up. Focus on that. It need not be a big thing that makes you happy, maybe it is just the music on the radio – but try to find the joy in the season because there is a lot to be thankful for. You are alive and here to enjoy another holiday. Make the best of it.
*This blog originally appeared here on “Being Beautifully Bipolar” on PsychCentral.com in 2013.