Ingram Blog

Self-Care for the Holidays

by Ann Lehue, MSIS, Senior Manager, Collection Development

The holiday season will soon be upon—and in some cases will soon trample upon—us. Surveys show that stress, anxiety, fatigue, irritability, and sadness often increase with the holidays, even in people who also feel love and excitement during this season.

More than half of people polled by Psychology Today said they experience financial stress from holiday spending, even when more than half of them set a holiday budget. For most people, the holidays bring on a flurry of activity, perceived and real responsibilities, and exhausting schedules. Physical and mental exhaustion can bring even those who love the holidays to a breaking point.

And for others, the holidays can magnify loss, disappointment, loneliness, and brokenness. Whether it is the pain of family gatherings for the first time after a death or divorce, the ongoing dashed expectations of dysfunctional families and relationships, or the inability for families to be together because of work, finances, distance, or illness, the never-ending push to be always happy during “the most wonderful time of the year” can be brutal.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has some suggestions to fight the holiday blues:

  • Don’t compare your life, family, and holidays to the idealized and false depictions in our culture.
  • Don’t be afraid to say no to gatherings and requests.
  • Limit your exposure to toxic people and maintain realistic expectations and boundaries.
  • Volunteer, especially if you feel isolated or lonely.
  • Keep your own well-being in mind and take breaks and exercise to relieve stress.
  • Only keep the holiday traditions that have more pros than cons.
  • Make sure that the “holiday blues” don’t have another biological or psychological cause. If these feelings persist, see your doctor.

Although just a few self-care books speak specifically to the holidays, many general titles apply especially during this time and can help people make both short- and long-term changes in their lives that may ease some of the pain or spur them to find help.

For readers who have come up short in the positive-thinking movement (and who don’t mind profanity and poop jokes), blogger Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck might help combat the pressure to put on a happy face. “…A superstar blogger shows us that the key to being happier is to stop trying to be ‘positive’ all the time and instead to become better at handling adversity. ‘Let's be honest; sometimes things are fucked up and we have to live with it.’ …Once we embrace our fears, faults, and uncertainties--once we stop running from and avoiding, and start confronting painful truths--we can begin to find the courage and confidence we desperately seek.”

Perfectionism during the holidays creates extra stress and feelings of unworthiness. “In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown, Ph.D., a leading expert on shame, authenticity, and belonging, shares what she's learned from a decade of research on the power of "Wholehearted Living," a way of engaging with the world from a place of worthiness. In her ten guideposts, Brown …explores how we can cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, no matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough..."

Introducing a few minutes of meditation each day can help provide some relief from stress and depression. Andy Puddicombe’s The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness: How Mindfulness Can Change Your Life in Ten Minutes a Day teaches meditation techniques that can be used in a crowd or alone, no matter how busy you are or what your holiday season looks like.

One simple way to help patrons—and library workers—deal with holiday stress and depression is to create an easily findable display to make seeking help easy and self-serve. In addition to some of the books in our Self-Care for the Holidays link below, you can place cards with your local mental health agencies and domestic violence and suicide hotlines that can easily be discretely pocketed by those in need, or by those who want to be able to help others. In the words of Sgt. Esterhaus on Hill Street Blues, “Let’s be careful out there.”