Coping with the Holidays…

The holiday season often brings unwelcome guests — stress and depression. And it’s no wonder. The holidays present a dizzying array of demands — parties, shopping, baking, cleaning and entertaining, to name just a few.

But with some practical tips, you can minimize the stress that accompanies the holidays. You may even end up enjoying the holidays more than you thought you would.

Tips to prevent holiday stress and depression

When stress is at its peak, it’s hard to stop and regroup. Try to prevent stress and depression in the first place, especially if the holidays have taken an emotional toll on you in the past.

  1. Acknowledge your feelings.  If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
  2. Reach out.  If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
  3. Be realistic.  The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can’t come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos.
  4. Set aside differences.  Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
  5. Stick to a budget.  Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts.

Try these alternatives:

  • Donate to a charity in someone’s name.
  • Give homemade gifts.
  • Start a family gift exchange.
  1. Plan ahead.  Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That’ll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.
  2. Learn to say no.  Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
  3. Don’t abandon healthy habits.  Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.

Try these suggestions:

  • Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Incorporate regular physical activity into each day.
  1. Take a breather.  Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.

Some options may include:

  • Taking a walk at night and stargazing.
  • Listening to soothing music.
  • Getting a massage.
  • Reading a book.
  1. Seek professional help if you need it.  Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

Don’t let the holidays become something you dread. Instead, take steps to prevent the stress and depression that can descend during the holidays. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or personal demands, so you can combat them before they lead to a meltdown. With a little planning and some positive thinking, you can find peace and joy during the holidays.

Article written by: The Mayo Clinic Staff

 

 

Four Things That Can Destroy Relationships

According to John Gottman, Ph.D., “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” are behaviors that, if they occur regularly, are very good predictors of either a failed or a terminally unhappy relationship. If you discover that any of these occur often in your relationship, you and your partner are most likely heading for trouble. The “Four Horsemen” are:

  1. Criticism versus Complaint. A complaint addresses only the specific action at which your partner has failed. A criticism is global. It attacks the matefs character or personality. Here is an example: Complaint: “There is no gas in the car. I’m aggravated that you didn’t fill it up like you said you would.” Criticism: “You never remember anything! You can’t be counted on for your word!”
  2. Contempt. Contempt is composed of a set of behaviors that communicate disgust. It includes, but is not limited to: sneering, sarcasm, name calling, eye rolling, mockery, hostile humor and condescension. It is primarily transmitted through non-verbal behaviors. It does not move toward reconciliation and inevitably increases the conflict. It is always disrespectful. Research shows couples that display contempt for each other suffer more illnesses and diseases than respectful couples.
  3. Defensiveness. These behaviors convey the message, “The problem is not me. It’s you.” From this position you imply that, because your partner threw the first stone, they are responsible for the entire conflict. You avoid taking responsibility for your own behavior by pointing to something they did prior to their complaint about you. You do not acknowledge that which is true in what they are saying about your behavior.
  4. Stonewalling. In relationships where intense arguments break out suddenly, and where criticism and contempt lead to defensiveness, and where more contempt leads to more defensiveness, eventually one partner tunes out. This is the beginning of stonewalling. The stonewaller acts as if he (research indicates that 85% of stonewallers in marriages are husbands) couldn’t care less about what the partner is saying or doing. He (sometimes she) turns away from conflict and from the relationship. Any form of disengagement can be stonewalling.

If either you or your partner regularly engages in any of these behaviors during fights, you have some work to do. The Four Horsemen corrode the love that is at the core of an intimate relationship.

What are the antidotes for these problem behaviors? There are many! Here are some suggestions:

  1. Learn how to mirror your partner’s complaints.
  2. Scan for whatever is valid in your partner’s complaint and address that.
  3. Speak respectfully even when angry.
  4. Practice holding yourself and your partner in warm regard, even when feeling distant or during a fight.
  5. Learn the skills of repairing damage in the relationship.
  6. Always live up to your agreements (or renegotiate if you can’t.)
  7. Make all requests of your partner clear, simple and specific.
  8. Practice sharing compliments, appreciations and praise daily.

If you and your partner find it difficult to replace the Four Horsemen with more loving behaviors, therapy can help.  I am an expert at coaching couples in how to re-establish intimacy in damaged relationships. Please contact me if you have questions or would like to schedule an initial consultation for you and your partner.