Finding Peace in Holiday Chaos

by Susan Duma, Psy.D., MPH

 

The holidays are a magical time of year full of glittering lights, joyful songs, and delicious food. But there's also the potential for stress, long lines, and family fights-all of which can make this time of year feel anything but magical.

 

 

In fact, when the Anxiety and Depression Association of America polled readers, half of respondents said the holidays made them feel more depressed or anxious. One-quarter reported feeling joyful.

 

 

This time of year tends to stress people "because most of us go 11 months of the year doing our own thing, and then within four to six weeks, our entire routine gets shaken up by variables we cannot control," explains the Raby Institute's Integrative Psychologist, Susan Duma, Psy.D.

 

 

Additionally, American culture puts high expectations on how the holidays should play out. "A lot of us feel pressure to get together and be happy," she adds. If you experience the situational depression of holiday blues, Dr. Duma recommends a few different approaches to ease your mind.

 

 

"Recognize and attend to what's important to you during this time of year. Don't get caught in what's important to others," she says. If spending time reading on your couch alone brings you peace, honor that. Some people prefer to re-connect with nature by taking a walk in the forest preserve with a friend. Others want to put on their favorite music and cook dinner. You could also meditate, go for a run, volunteer in your community-whatever it is, take time for those moments that matter most to you.

 

 

Yet, no one gets everything the way she wants all the time. Some things are simply out of anyone's control-i.e. the line at Nordstrom's or the relative who makes racist remarks over dinner. Recognize those moments that are beyond your control, and do your best to let them go.

 

 

Family traditions may be another area out of your control. If your family stresses you out, but holiday tradition dictates that you spend time with them, Dr. Duma says, "Know your limits and honor them. If you can only spend two days with your family, keep it to two days-and then go to the Bahamas."

 

 

Whatever you're doing, engage in it, she adds. "Be in the moment without judgment."

 

 

"The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step."
- Lao Tzu