How to Heal the Humbug in your Happy Holidays

As far as the holiday season is concerned, there seem to be two types of people. Type 1 is excited, cheerful, and can’t turn that Christmas music on soon enough. Type 2 already feels the anxiety and winter SADness creeping in. Do you love listening to White Christmas and eagerly await the holiday greetings that pop up in your mail to say “here’s my perfect family and all that we have been up to this year!” If so – you’re Type 1. If you couldn’t read that sentence without a grimace, wince, and the promise of an adult beverage, then you’re probably Type 2.

So, what happens when you’ve got a couple of cheerful Type 1’s, and a few grinchy Type 2’s, and you all work in the same office? For the answer to this hard-hitting question, we turn to Jane Bauer, Payroll Extraordinaire at HealthStar’s Corporate HQ. Jane says:

It’s not about the music, or the decorations, or even the food. It’s all about the feeling of joy that surrounds the holidays, and about sharing that joy with the people you care about!

(But the music is pretty important.)

Jane Bauer, excessive “early Christmas Music” player

Weeeeell, maybe I’m paraphrasing, but I think this is what Jane would say. And technically speaking, she’s correct. But it doesn’t stop the Type 2’s from complaining, does it, Jane?

Holiday Cheer!

At HealthStar, we have a good mix of both kinds of holiday people. But the Type 1 is easier to spot than the elusive Type 2. Type 1’s can’t help but shout it from the rooftops – they love the scents and sounds of all that is related to “the holidays.” Cinnamon spice, Bing Crosby, and some festive decor to really set things off. Garlands, sparkles, twinkly lights – nothing is too over the top.

And it is fun to look at. It’s like when mommy and daddy get dressed up for an ugly sweater and the kids ooh and aah, like “you guys look so fancy.” The kids don’t know there’s sarcasm behind those sweaters, they just see something bright and colorful, and it makes them feel special.

On the other hand…

The Type 2’s are a little less obvious. You might spot a hard eye-roll when the Holiday Music gets turned up just a little too high. Or maybe they mention they’re not that into pumpkin spice on everything. The signs can be very subtle – even as subtle as hiding in the supply closet every time someone mentions doing an office gift exchange. See some of these signs? You may have spotted an elusive Type 2 “holi-grouch” in the wild.

Sometimes, when a cheerful Type 1 encounters a curmudgeonly Type 2, the Type 1 will try to “cheer up” his neighbor by saying things like, “Can’t wait for that family get-together,” or “what are you giving your spouse/kids/other loved ones this season?” Type 1 is so innocent and full of joy, it’s a shocking surprise when Type 2 goes pale and has to breathe into a paper bag after hearing the questions.

Mental Health and Holiday Mania

If you’re a Type 2, you might be facing this holiday season like you would face any other difficult task – “I can do this. I can do this.” The family, the shopping, and the desire to be “as happy as everyone else” can all combine to create a Mental Health Minefield during the stress and chaos of these otherwise cheery months. From November until mid-January, after the fruitcake has been “disposed of,” and the holiday glitter dust has settled, Type 2’s may find their only solace in the knowledge that “this, too, shall pass.”

The Perfect Holiday?

Is there hope for a Type 2 to turn all of this holiday anxiety into a little more enjoyment? Well, before we can start healing, we have to ask ourselves what makes the holidays so stressful. More and more, it seems, we aspire to an unrealistic standard. We’re comparing ourselves to Dick and Jane, the early readers of the 1950’s. Dick and Jane played outside with their father, helped mother in the kitchen, and laughed with the neighbor kids. Dick and Jane weren’t worried about war, or food shortages, or any other “real world” problems. They were the “perfect family” Facebook of the 50’s.

So, what if we toss out today’s unrealistic expectations along with our hammer-tough fruitcake? That might help a little, right? It’s a good start, and here’s a few other tips that might help put a skip back in those holiday steps!

Start the Holiday Humbug Healing

First off – if you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the stress and pressure of the holidays, you’re NOT alone. There are plenty of people who feel the same way! But don’t suffer through this alone. If you are bothered by persistent feelings of depression or anxiety, or you just don’t feel like yourself, talk to your doctor or another trusted health care contact. HealthStar Clients, of course you can always talk to HealthStar staff for some advice! You could be dealing with more than just holiday stress.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way – we can work on harnessing the joy of the holidays for all of these troublesome Type 2’s. There’s plenty of advice “on the internet” about how to ditch the crab and embrace the holiday fab. Here are my favorite three suggestions.

1: Volunteer

There are SO MANY causes during this time of year. People are hungry, cold, and lonely. Helping someone else is just about the most wholesome way to help yourself. I challenge you to feel sad after spending a day in service. You will feel GREAT knowing that you’ve made a difference to someone else.

Maybe you take a Salvation Army shift, ringing that tinkling bell outside your favorite store. Or find a homeless shelter and take a turn in the kitchen. Look around your neighborhood, too. This is a fabulous time to connect with someone in your town who doesn’t have much support. If you’re struggling to find a volunteer idea, Google is here to help! Check out this Google search to find volunteer opportunities near you. There are plenty of ideas, just pick something and get out there!

2: Give Up on the “should” and enjoy the “is.”

If you’re like me, you’re constantly thinking about the next thing, or how you could have done something better. Instead of burning yourself out on worries that don’t accomplish anything, give up on some of the “perfect-itis” and rejoice in mediocrity. It’s OK not to be the best at things! You don’t have to search all day/week for the perfect this or that.

To help remind yourself: Make a list of the things that you’re most thankful for. When you’re stressing out about something that you wish you had, or could, or should – take a look at your gratefulness list. Does the wish/could/should really matter as much as those things? If it does, then make a plan to work on it. If it doesn’t, then move on to something that does matter.

3: Scale back and say no!

Do you feel like you can’t skip a family event? Don’t want to be “the one” who doesn’t go to the office party? I’m not saying to skip the most important time with your loved ones, let’s be clear. But if you can say “no” to one thing in order to say “yes” to something restorative, then sometimes that’s a healthy choice.

For example – maybe this year, you don’t have to go to every single big, wild, extended family get-together (or at least you can just drop by for a short visit), and instead you’ll plan a special night in with just your spouse and your kids. Or maybe, instead of going to the office party, you want to spend that night volunteering at a local animal shelter. As long as you’re trading out for something that’s good for you, and not just to sit at home and mope, then I’ve got your back.

Relax. You’ve got this.

So if you’re a Type 2, don’t get all worked up and wacky just yet. There’s hope for a great holiday season, if you can set aside some of your “shoulds” and make time to do something wholesome. You might even find yourself hanging up garland or humming “little drummer boy.”

No, not little drummer boy. Anything but little drummer boy.

Wrapping it all up

There’s not a lot left to say, I just wanted to work in the wrapping pun. Happy Holidays, from a Type 2 who is working toward Type 1 level enthusiasm! One note – if you really want to up your Type 1 game, take up Cross-Stitching. I have it on good authority that you could be cranking out a Christmas Stocking as quickly as one every 19-years. Again, Jane Bauer is the resident expert:

Beth, it did NOT take me 19-years.

Jane Bauer, Cross-Stitch Expert

For more information, and to see a few other articles with the same general idea, check these out:

NAMI Holiday Blues

Embracing Mediocrity

Beat Holiday Stress

Managing Holiday Stress

For some, the holiday season is “the most wonderful time of the year” but for those with mental health issues, seniors and caregivers, it’s also a time that manifests hopelessness and loss. People often get caught up in the commotion the holidays bring with all the extra commitments, emotions and expectations, making it easy to lose focus. Before you know it, stress and depression have taken over and it’s tough to dig yourself out, especially for those already dealing with mental health issues. It may sound simple, but what can help is to remember what matters most in life.

Here are some reminders to keep you focused on what’s important this holiday season in order to stay healthy both mentally and physically.

Keep it Real. As much as you may want the holidays to be perfect for you and your family, let’s be realistic… they aren’t. And that is ok! When life throws you a curve ball in the way of travel delays from the icy Minnesota roads, poor health or an unfortunate accident, try to adjust and go with the flow. Even your long-standing holiday traditions over the years may need to adjust to accommodate changes that come your way. Who knows, you just may find a new favorite tradition!

Plan ahead. Schedule time to do your shopping, baking and extra activities. If you don’t plan out your day, it will easily get away from you and then you’ll be rushing to get things done or end up forgetting something important. If you’re unable to leave a senior or someone with mental health issues that you’re caring for, consider respite.

It’s ok to say no. Decide in advance what is important to you, your family and the seniors in your life, then stick to your plan. You are not a superhero with more hours in your day as your secret weapon so instead, attend the events that are important to you. Spend time with the people you love most and who feed your soul, paying careful attention to avoid those that bring negativity into your life. Your spirit will thank you.

Be Healthy. Daily exercise, good sleep and healthy eating habits will keep you feeling your best this holiday season. It’s ok to treat yourself to the cookies and indulgent meals, but don’t over do it. Weight gain will lead to depression and low self-esteem, which in turn will prevent you from feeling your best. Don’t forget to carve out some time for yourself – take care of yourself first.

Set a Budget and Stick to It. The joy of gift giving will fade quickly if you know you will be buried in debt when the holidays end. Instead, determine a budget that works for you and stick to it. If money is tight, be creative with your gift giving. You can make a donation or volunteer your time to a charity in someone’s name, give the gift of spending time together or give homemade gifts. Your loved ones will appreciate this too, especially homebound seniors.

Volunteer. Volunteering your time is a great way to help those who are less fortunate. There are so many great non-profit organizations in Minnesota that need a little extra help during the holiday season. Volunteering teaches your children the invaluable lesson to give back to their church and Minnesota community. It makes you feel good inside and keeps the holiday spirit alive.

Seek Support If You Need It. Don’t be ashamed or afraid to ask for help if you need it. Spending time with family, friends and your community is helpful in staying healthy, but sometimes you need a little more support. At Healthstar Home Health, we offer Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services (ARMHS) for adults 18 years and older who have a qualifying mental illness and are eligible for medical assistance that want to improve their life. ARMHS is not case management or traditional therapy, but instead is mental health services aimed at teaching you skills for managing your mental health symptoms and can get your through the busy, unpredictable holiday season. Contact HealthStar directly by calling 651-633-7300 and ask to speak to a professional in the ARMHS department.