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Happier Holidays

5 tips for preserving your mental health during the holiday season

Every year, we start out the holiday season with the best of intentions. We tell ourselves, “This year, I will do my shopping early, I won’t overindulge in spending or on yummy treats, and I will slow down to enjoy the holiday experience.”

But then reality sets in. We still find ourselves scrambling to finish last-minute shopping, and most of us stopped tracking spending — and certainly caloric intake — by the second week of November. As far as slowing down to enjoy the experience? We would be happy to just get some sleep during this hectic time.

Much of this chaos is simply part of the holiday season. And while some stress is inevitable, creating limits is a highly effective way to preserve at least some of your sanity. Setting boundaries in the following areas will likely make for a more enjoyable holiday season.

Events: I know this may be surprising, but there is no rule that says you have to attend every event you are invited to. It is more than okay to say, “No, thank you,” to some invitations. Consider narrowing the number of invitations you accept to one or two events per week. It may be difficult to say no, especially at first, but your mental health will thank you.

Time: Prior to attending events, be prepared with an escape plan in case you find it difficult to leave after a reasonable amount of time. Have a set time that you plan to go home, and have a prepared reason for leaving at that time, for examples to get the babysitter home, to let the dogs out, an early morning wake-up, etc.

Money: Before shopping, make a list of everyone for whom you plan to purchase gifts. Decide on the total dollar amount you feel comfortable spending, and then allocate this amount accordingly. For example, you might not spend as much on the dog walker as you do on your mother-in-law (I could be incorrect with this example, but you get the point). Keeping a record of your spending will ensure you don’t get distracted by gifts outside of this predetermined price range.

Conversation: Politics, religion and how you are feeling about your recent divorce are not appropriate holiday dinner conversations. When a topic is presented that most certainly won’t go well, politely express that you would prefer not to talk about it and swiftly change the subject. If all else fails, respectfully remove yourself from the conversation.

Expectations: The need to buy the best gifts, to re-create the cookies from “The Holiday Baking Championship” and to establish lifelong memories are all admirable objectives, yet such lofty goals often end up causing more stress than enjoyment. Consider assessing your expectations and managing as needed. Keep in mind, the holidays don’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.

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