January 13, 2022 by Muriel Sommers
Ask the Psychiatrist: Tips to Help Reduce Your Holiday Stress
“Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hannukah are my favorite holidays,” says Rachel Rohaidy, M.D., a board-certified psychiatrist at Baptist Health Primary Care. “But for many people, they can be among the most stressful times of the year.”
There are lots of responsibilities and added pressures during the holidays, admits Dr. Rohaidy, who also serves as medical director of The Recovery Village at Baptist Health. “Many people expect a lot of themselves and want everything to be perfect.” She should know – she’s one of them. But the pandemic, she says, has given her ample opportunity to reflect and plan for the holidays this year.
“I asked myself, ‘Why are you doing this to yourself?’ and I started looking at the holidays differently,” Dr. Rohaidy says. “I love the traditions and I always will but, after the challenges of the past two years, I’m lowering my expectations and scaling back on the holidays. I believe strongly that whatever you need to do to be less stressed – especially now – you should do.”
Dr. Rohaidy offers these tips on how you can ratchet down the stress and spend more time enjoying the holidays with your loved ones:
- Because of COVID-19, and especially the Omicron variant, things have changed and people are taking extra precautions. Have a family discussion to address vaccination and mask options for your holiday gathering.
- If you’re uncomfortable hosting non-vaccinated people in your home, be honest and open and let them know it’s okay not to attend. It’s your house, and your rules.
- Have a plan and know what you’re going to cook. Sticking to your traditional meal helps bring you back to the season and your memories and feelings of holidays past.
- Create your list, start shopping early. Be ready and be prepared.
- Prep food ahead of time – many dishes can be made in advance and refrigerated until needed.
- Cleaning out and organizing the refrigerator makes it easier to store and find holiday foods (and leftovers).
- Do you really need to roast a whole turkey? Some people find it simpler and less stressful to cook and serve just a turkey breast.
- Ask your family members to bring dishes they like so you won’t have to cook everything.
- Use paper plates and disposable cutlery and cups. No need to bring out the holiday dishes and beautiful plates with holiday designs – it just adds another level of stress.
- Clean as you go. Or lighten your load and hire someone to clean the house before the holiday. If you’re having family stay with you, it makes your job a lot easier.
Find ways to de-stress
- Figure out what you can do for yourself to minimize the stresses of the holidays.
- Schedule time for self-care and mindfulness. Take a little alone time, just for you, to be in the moment with your thoughts.
- Take a news break and disconnect from social media.
- Take a long shower before bed to relax and try to work in more hours of sleep.
- When you’re feeling overwhelmed, let it go. It’s so important not to sweat the small stuff.
- De-clutter. Having lots of stuff lying around can get the best of you and get on your nerves. A nice, clean space can help alleviate stress and give you more time to enjoy with your family.
Focus on what’s important for YOU
- Learn to say “No” and accept that it’s okay. You don’t want to be physically exhausted for the holidays. Do only what is best for you and take care of yourself.
- If you’re feeling overwhelmed, establishing boundaries is important. It can be so freeing to feel that weight lifted off your shoulders.
- Remember what everyone means to you and how much being together means, this year, especially. Enjoy the time you have with your family and friends – you’ll never get it back.
- Be grateful and embrace what you have.
However you spend your holidays, Dr. Rohaidy advises taking all precautions against COVID-19, which is spreading rapidly in South Florida and across the country. “The Omicron variant is proving to be highly contagious and is causing a number of breakthrough infections, so even people who’ve received all three vaccinations need to be extra careful,” she says. “That means wearing masks, self-testing before you gather with family, and having your gathering outdoors, if possible.”
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