Community Papers

North Shore residents: Ease your stress this December

It doesn’t matter if you’re single, newly married or have a bunch of kids, Christmastime can be stressful for anyone.

CaraLynne McLean, who owns CaraLynne McLean Counselling in North Vancouver, says the holidays can be a wonderful time, but can also be a source of stress, anxiety and depression because of added duties and the complicated task of balancing family time.

Here’s what she recommends doing to ease the stress this December:

1. Manage your time. Remember you are in control of how much you do over the holidays. If you are feeling overwhelmed give yourself some “time out.”  Saying “no” to requests is a healthy limit-setting behaviour.

2. Ask for help. You don’t have to do the decorating, baking, wrapping and cooking all at once and by yourself. Make holiday tasks a family affair and share duties.

3. Set a budget. Setting and sticking to a budget now will help you avoid the money blues in January. Think thoughtful rather than expensive gifts.

4. Stay flexible. Divorced or blended families often find the holidays more challenging.  If old traditions cause sadness replace them with new traditions that fit your new parenting arrangement. When you’re not with your children, consider getting away, visiting friends or taking a holiday rather than being alone.

5. Volunteer. It often feels better to give than to receive. Consider volunteering at a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, or a retirement or nursing home. There are many people in need of support and your act of kindness will outlast any monetary gift you can give.

6. Avoid triggers. Difficult family relationships will not miraculously mend themselves in time for Christmas dinner! Be aware of subjects that create heightened emotions in people and try to avoid them.

7. Stay active. Rain or shine, plan to do an activity outdoors after the Christmas meal. Take the little ones out to a park or take the family pet for a walk.

8. Don’t do drugs. Avoid self-medicating with alcohol or drugs. Christmas cheer may feel good in the moment but too much tends to heighten depression and lead to other issues.

9. Keep perspective. If you struggle with issues, especially food issues, the holidays are likely a very challenging time. Try to keep the holiday season in focus.  Remembering the old adage “This too shall pass” may just help to get you through.

10. Plan ahead. Financially, there are many savings available beginning on December 26th that will make your Christmas next year that much easier.

11. Keep track. As you pack up holiday decorations, write a list of things that contributed to a good holiday season and those that didn’t. Place the list on the top of your decoration box so that next year you’ll have a reminder!

12. Stay connected. If you are feeling down, reach out. Contact a friend, family member or professional counsellor and let them know what you are going through.  Grief, loss, depression and anxiety don’t magically disappear because there are shiny lights and holiday music all around.

Visit caralynnemclean.com for more tips.

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