Why should you need survival strategies for the holidays? Aren’t they supposed to be fun?
That’s part of the problem of course, there are so many expectations and hopes wrapped up in holiday season that it’s easy to end up feeling disappointed. If things haven’t worked out for you in a relationship or someone close to you is passed away this is a time when it’s easy to get caught up in wishful thinking and feeling sad.
Even if that’s not true, at least in the northern hemisphere, these are also the darkest days of the year that can have an impact on mood, leading us to feel disappointed even if the holidays themselves turn out fine.
I suppose it’s no coincidence that the months of November and December are far and away the busiest months in terms of new patient contacts in our sister clinic, Gateway Psychiatric Services.
It is good to do an inventory, or create a checklist of self care strategies, just as you might for buying presents.
Healthy routines can get disrupted, and making a commitment to get them back on track always helps. Acknowledging ahead of time that there will probably be a disruption or two at some point in the next few weeks is the first step to being prepared. When it happens, don’t waste time feeling guilty because you didn’t “make the grade”. Forget about grades and do what needs to be done to get the routine back on track.
Sleep schedules are particularly important: be sure to keep track of when and how you are sleeping, especially at a time of the year when natural light may be less, weather may discourage you from going outside, and holiday partying may keep you out later than usual. If you get off the schedule, that’s okay, just get back on again as soon as you can.
Diet is an area that is particularly prone to see disruptions in routine. On average people in the United States gain about 5 pounds during the two months of November and December and then spend the rest of the year struggling to lose it.
Keep avoiding refined sugar and flours, and stick to a routine of mostly vegetables and fish with smaller amounts of meat and eggs. Keep in mind that alcohol is never your friend. Drink only limited amounts and responsibly. But if you forget the guidelines, don’t beat up on yourself, just get back up and start again.
Exercise can also be a challenge. Keeping in the habit of physical activity is much more important than trying to keep to a rigid pre-holiday routine. So Consider substituting a brisk walk for a full workout or doing a modified form of that work out at home.
Holidays CAN be fun, with a bit of planning and discipline. Maintaining healthy habits, even during a more chaotic time of year is the key to enjoying things as they come.