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Blog Short #163: 8 Things You Can Do to Keep Your Mood Steady During the Holidays

Photo by triocean, Courtesy of iStock Photo

Holidays are supposed to be times of warmth and joy and often are, but they can also bring on moodiness, depression, or sadness.

They clutter up your to-do lists, highlight losses and loneliness, and sometimes create family drama.

There are some things you can do to manage your moods during the holidays that will make them more enjoyable and help you deal with stressors as they arise.

Here’s a list of strategies you can use.

1. Keep a routine.

Any time you have time away from your job or your regular daily routine, you can feel at odds with yourself.

You might start ruminating about things you normally don’t think about, or you recall losses and linger on them.

Sometimes, you feel out of whack and mildly uncomfortable because you’re operating on a different schedule.

Although some people enjoy the change-up in their routine, more people feel adrift when the routine scatters about. You eat more and at different times, engage in other activities, and interact with people you might not usually see regularly.

If you like your routine and look forward to doing the same things at regular times every day, then the upset might knock you off kilter and make you moody.

If so, it’s good to establish a new routine just for the holidays so you know what you’ll be doing and when.

That can help restore your sense of control and make you feel better. Also, carve out a little time each day for yourself to be quiet and recuperate.

2. Reduce the workload.

Holidays are fun but a lot of work, especially if you’re heavily involved in the preparations. There’s gift buying, food prep, entertaining, kids home from school, decorating, and coordinating all of that so everyone’s happy. It’s a lot!

There are several ways you can reduce this stress:

Manage your expectations.

Reduce the number of masterpiece meals, decorate less, and buy more gifts online.

Be selective about the activities and events you choose to engage in. Don’t try to do everything. If you want lights outside, do a couple of single strands over some shrubs and forego the lights around the rim of your roof.

I’m not saying you should exclude things that are a tradition or that you love, but balance what you do with the time you have so that you can enjoy the holidays, not just be in charge of orchestrating them.

Secondly, delegate.

Let other family members help – a lot!

Let everyone join in the decorating. Make it fun! Listen to Christmas music while you do it.

Assign tasks and enjoy group projects. Get takeout for dinner, or have potlucks. Give everyone house duties.

Pick and choose special events.

Don’t do them all. Go to those community events you love. Let everyone vote on what they want to do, and then get it down to a manageable list.

Schedule things ahead so you know what’s on tap and when.

3. Take care of yourself.

Make sure you sleep enough, stay hydrated, eat well most days, and don’t indulge in too much alcohol.

Part of the holiday mindset is letting go and indulging in sweets, rich food, alcoholic beverages, staying up late, and entertaining.

It’s all fun, but there’s a cost. Your body keeps the score, and before you know it, you feel cranky and mildly depressed.

Once your body’s overwhelmed with too much of everything, you won’t be able to control your mood.

So be mindful and spread out your indulgences and keep them within control.

By the way, alcohol is a depressant. It also lowers blood sugar, dehydrates, and interrupts sleep.

4. Allow yourself to feel losses.

Holidays can bring up strong emotions. You might feel things more acutely, especially losses you’ve experienced. You miss people more deeply or sometimes pets you’ve loved and lost.

Allow yourself to experience the feelings of loss, which will help you cope with them.

It helps to talk them through with a close family member or friend. Journaling is also a good option.

One year, when I was particularly missing my Mom, I wrote an email to her even though I couldn’t send it, which was helpful.

5. Counter loneliness.

Loneliness can move in and invade your emotional space if you’re alone and don’t have people to be with during the holidays.

Accept invitations to have dinner with friends or join in their holiday celebrations.

You can also consider volunteering. You’ll feel needed and appreciated and have the added gratification of helping someone else.

Volunteering connects you socially, increases your empathy, expands your environment, and makes you feel a part of something. It provides meaning and gives you purpose.

If you’re okay with being alone, make your days enjoyable by doing things you like to do for yourself.

6. Stick to a budget.

There’s something about the holidays that loosens up your inhibitions and encourages you to toss caution aside.

Overspending is a testament to this mindset and has an ugly aftertaste when the holidays are over, and the credit card bills start coming in.

Make a budget upfront. As you do it, imagine how you’ll feel about your expenditures mid-January. Let that image settle in your mind so you take great care in deciding what you’ll allow yourself to spend.

Gifts don’t have to be expensive to be meaningful. Focus on the meaning and intent rather than the monetary value.

7. Keep the peace.

Holidays are family time, which sometimes creates opportunities for bickering, hurt feelings, opening old wounds, or colliding opinions – in other words, your very own version of the Griswold family from “Christmas Vacation.”

To keep the peace, try these things.

Plan ahead.

You know who doesn’t get along with who and what activities create squabbles. Decide how to avoid those situations and establish rules or policies to keep it to a low rumble.

Maybe you make a seating chart for dinner so people who tend to bicker don’t sit next to each other. Or you have people stay in AirBnB’s instead of all at your house.

Set rules.

My family doesn’t talk politics at the table during holiday get-togethers. That’s one of the rules. Another is no cell phones while eating.

What rules do you need to set up to keep everyone comfortable and the atmosphere conflict-free?

Set boundaries.

Rules are boundaries, but you may also need to set other boundaries, like:

  • Who comes over, and for how long?
  • Who stays the night, and who doesn’t?
  • What activities are okay for the kids, and what are not?
  • When is bedtime for everyone?
  • Who can be in the kitchen when you’re cooking, if anyone?

Boundaries are lifesavers, especially when they’re clear and spoken.

If you have a partner, you should decide together ahead of time what all the boundaries and rules are, along with how you intend to enforce them. That way, you can work as a team to make it run smoothly.

8. Monitor noise.

Noise can be overwhelming, especially for people more sensitive to it.

Keep it low enough to allow people to talk, be heard, and have a good time while keeping the atmosphere comfortable.

Media is a strong presence and has an impact on how everyone’s feeling. It’s a significant source of noise. Decide ahead:

  • What can be on TV and when?
  • What music can be played, when, where, and at what volume?
  • What kinds of media can the kids consume, and at what times?

You don’t have to be dictatorial, but you can ask that there be no phones during meals, when opening gifts, or at any other gathering times. It’s up to you!

That’s my list. The whole idea of holidays is to share happiness and love and enjoy being together. Hopefully, some of these ideas will help ensure you have those experiences.

That’s all for today.

Have a great week!

All my best,


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