The holidays take a toll on mental health because of the pressure typically associated with them.
There are events to attend, people to see, and oh so much expectation.
This is recipe for stress and unhappiness.
Add to that relatives who are not always on their best behavior, and you have a cocktail of mental health problems.
For example, my grandmother, in all seriousness, told me, “I’m going to kill you.” when I didn’t pass a dish of food fast enough during one Thanksgiving meal. Yikes, indeed.
But what can you do to feel better? Is there any hope during these stressful times?
There is. Try these these strategies, and see if they work for you.
1. Lower your expectations
For whatever reason, people have outrageous expectations during the holidays.
Maybe it’s the excitement of having family and friends together that don’t normally get together in one room.
Maybe it’s family members and friends wanting to impress others with all that they’ve accomplished throughout the year, even if those accomplishments are 90% half-truths.
Here’s something that could help you prepare for the inevitable nonsense you will deal with this holiday season.
Approach each situation with an open mind. This actually good wisdom for life, in general.
A mentor once told me, “All expectation is premeditated resentment.”
Let that sink in for a second.
When you expect something to happen, you are tying your happiness to something that is completely outside of your control.
And nothing happens exactly the way we expect it to.
But if you remove the expectation, you give yourself permission to be happy no matter what. And on your terms, not only when you experience some arbitrary outcome.
2. Focus on what you can control
Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
It’s human nature to want to be at your best and do it all for all people all the time.
With so many eyes watching you during the holiday season, this desire for social approval is especially strong.
But be careful. Don’t make commitments based on a need to be liked.
Don’t act to get approval–or to try to control anything for that matter.
Instead, focus on what you can control.
What do I mean by that?
Every moment, take the best action you possibly can. Maybe it’s smiling at a relative who makes you angry. Or maybe it’s refraining from making that negative remark that it on your mind.
Every moment of every day, you always have a choice of how to act.
So, when something goes wrong–and something always goes wrong–don’t fall into old patterns.
Remember this random guy from the Internet, and pause for five seconds.
Assess your surroundings.
And choose the best possible action for the moment.
Simply pausing to think and feel can snap you out of automatic mode and help you make a better decision.
3. Set boundaries
Before you head into holiday events with family or friends, decide what you will and will not tolerate.
What is your line in the sand that, if someone were to cross it, would cause you to put up your hand and say, “Enough” and refuse to tolerate whatever is currently happening?
A boundary could be a verbal one: I will not allow so-and-so to speak this way to me.
Or a boundary could be an action you refuse to take: I will not do this action that has caused me pain in years past.
Setting a boundary is not being weak. It’s being intentional about how you want to live your life.
It’s another way to snap out of automatic mood and live a joyful life of your choosing.