In one weekend the weather changed, the time changed and my home decor changed from my preferred minimalistic, well-organized style to what resembles a cross between a winter wonderland and an explosion of merriment in Santa’s workshop.
This is my most favorite time of the year! However, for some people, the arrival of the holiday season can bring feelings of stress, anxiety, and even depression.
I was reminded of this after sending the fifth picture of my Christmas trees (yes, there are several) to a friend. Her simple text response read, “Ho, ho, NO!” with an added angry face emoji. I texted her back asking if it were too early for trees. She responded, “It could be Christmas Day and it would be too early! I HATE the holidays!”
The holidays can be a difficult time for several reasons. We are often busier during the holiday season, and trying to balance work and family obligations can be exhausting. This season can also be financially stressful since gift giving, travel and other events can take a toll on your finances.
While the holidays should be a time of joy, people may have unrealistic expectations of how something will be. It does not help when 24-hour television shows and movies specific to this season portray unrealistic ideas of settings, story lines, people, and life with all things magical and working out in the end.
Holidays are often spent surrounded by family and friends. Ideally, these gatherings are filled with happiness, but they can also bring up reminders of other emotions, including long-held grudges or sadness over the loss of a family member.
Shorter, colder and grayer days can also negatively impact a person’s mood. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a clinical depression that tends to present itself beginning in late fall and can go until early spring. It is linked with changes in light and can affect people who do not normally struggle with depression.
If you find yourself agonizing over the quickly approaching holiday season, consider the following suggestions.
• Start Early: Start now making to-do lists, planning your budget, organizing schedules, and tackling daily tasks. For example, stock your pantry to avoid extra trips to the grocery, and prepare meals you can freeze now and have on hand those nights making dinner seems an impossible chore.
• Keep it Simple: What are your most treasured holiday memories from your childhood? Most likely those memories have little to do with perfectly-matched table decorations and much more to do with a favorite recipe made by your mom or an activity done as a family. Furthermore, keep it simple with the gift giving. Do your children or grandchildren really need another toy that will end up buried in the closet? A 2019 study conducted by OnePoll, found 73 percent of the 2,000 kids interviewed would like more opportunities to bond with their family.
• Reconsider Traditions: Rituals are important to bring meaning to the holidays and create a sense of family identity. But not all traditions passed on from previous generations are do-able in this day and age. Yes, your great-great grandmother may have spent three days cooking the entire holiday meal for 135 relatives, but it does not mean you have to. Choose to make one or two of her recipes, and delegate side dishes to family members.
• Learn to Say No: The holidays are notorious for being a time of excess. We tend to eat, drink and spend far more than we should. Surviving the holidays involves knowing your limits. You do not have to attend every party or purchase gifts for everyone you know. Be selective, set limits, and encourage others to do the same.
• Be Good to Yourself: A person can be pulled in so many directions during the holiday season, often at the cost of their own personal health. Just as we should do all year round, make time for self-care. Sticking to your regular sleeping schedule as much as possible, making healthy food choices, drinking water and taking time to exercise are extremely helpful when it comes to managing the stresses of this busy time of year.
• Practice Gratitude: The holidays provide a wonderful opportunity to focus on the things we have such as family, friends, a roof over our heads, food on the table and a caring community rather than focusing on things we do not have. Thinking about our good fortune can help shift our perspective from one of being overwhelmed and stressed to one of happiness and gratitude.
There are 55 days between the writing of this column and the beginning of the new year. By following these simple tips, we at the Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service hope you and your family will find every one of the next 55 days filled with peace, joy and happiness.
To register for an upcoming program, call the Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service at 565-3002. For more information, visit valenciaextension.nmsu.edu.
• Gardening Survival Series, “Frost Protection & Hoop House Construction”: 10-11:30 a.m., Saturday, Nov. Bosque Farms Public Library, 1455 W. Bosque Loop.
• Beef Quality Assurance Certification: 9-11:30 a.m., Saturday, Nov. 16, Valencia County Extension Office, 404 Courthouse Road, Los Lunas.
• Meadow Lake Kids Club: 4-5:30 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 19, Meadow Lake Community Center, 100 Cuerro Lane, Meadow Lake.
• Nurturing Parenting Program, Developing family morals, values, and rules: 4:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 21, San Clemente Church, 244 Luna Ave. SE., Los Lunas.
• 10th Annual Forage Growers Workshop: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., , Tuesday, Dec. 3, UNM-Valencia campus, 280 La Entrada Road, Tomé.
• Specialty Cooking Class: Easy Candy Making: 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 5, $10. Peralta Methodist Church Community Education Building, 25 Wesley Road, Peralta. RSVP required by Dec. 1.
• NM Sustainable Ag Conference: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 10, UNM-Valencia campus, 280 La Entrada Road, Tomé.
• 4-H Enrollment: Through Jan. 15, 2020. Call today to get your children registered.
If you are an individual with a disability who is in need of auxiliary aid or service to participate in a program, please contact the Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service office at 565-3002 two weeks in advance of event.
Laura Bittner, guest columnist
Laura Bittner is the former Valencia County family and consumer science agent for the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service.