Emotional Health

6 Ways to Get Into the Holiday Spirit (Even When You’re Super Stressed)

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The most wonderful time of the year can also be the most stressful time of the year. Need a little help getting into the holiday spirit? Here, our experts share six uplifting ways to banish the blues and savor joy during this special season.

Lean into your feelings.

The holidays often churn up complex feelings — and that’s okay. “We tend to bury difficult emotions, but if we don’t acknowledge them, we won’t be able to do something about them,” says Shainna Ali, Ph.D., a mental health clinician and owner of Integrated Counseling Solutions, as well as the author of The Self-Love Workbook (Buy on Amazon, $14.36). Ali encourages getting to the heart of your holiday anxiety. Is it that you’re dreading the drama? Feel pressured to spend? When we identify the source of fear or stress, we can use it as guidepost to help us feel better.

Remember how strong you are.

Emotions tend to be fleeting, shares psychologist Vaile Wright, Ph.D. In fact, most of them last only 90 seconds. “When you’re stuck in a downward spiral, just remind yourself that this too shall pass,” she encourages. “Remember that while things are difficult right now, you’ve gotten through tough experiences before, and you’ll get through this too.”

Let go of perfect.

It’s easy to get caught up in doing everything for everyone else during the holidays, all in the spirit of giving, but beware of beating yourself up if something doesn’t come off just as planned. “If this year has shown us anything, it’s that we need to be clear about what we can manage and what we need to let go of,” says Ali. Too busy to order holiday cards? Didn’t get around to baking a pie? Let these tasks go and remember that the holiday spirit is less about showing and doing, and more about feeling and sharing. A thoughtful text or uninterrupted phone call is much more meaningful than cards or cookies.

Place value on values.

“Ask yourself, What’s most important to me? “ urges Wright. If gratitude is a core value, for example, try filling a jar with daily notes about anything from the great cup of coffee you had to how you grew closer to loved ones during difficult circumstances this year. Focusing on small joys deepens what really matters.

Take solace in ritual.

“Since my dad passed, my family always watches It’s a Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve,” says Wright. “It’s what I was watching when he passed, so it’s especially meaningful.” Whether you reminisce while hanging ornaments or listening to holiday music, rituals allow time for reflection and healing.

Step away sometimes.

You know about FOMO, fear of missing out. But you may not be familiar with JOMO, joy of missing out, says psychiatrist Judith Orloff, author of The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People (Buy on Amazon, $9.99). “One benefit of a smaller or virtual holiday gathering, for instance, is that you don’t have to absorb anyone’s negative energy.” Rather than being drained, you can feel emotionally nourished — which just might help get you into the holiday spirit.

This story originally appeared in our print magazine.

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