The holiday season is here. Typically marked by merriment, gatherings, gift-giving, and warmth, the holidays can be a time of joy and celebration. However, as a licensed psychologist, I also understand that this time of year can bring with it emotional challenges and stressors. The financial hardship that may arise during the holidays can leave individuals grappling with feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress. The added pressures to meet societal norms and expectations around gift-giving and celebrations can be particularly challenging.
Firstly, I want to remind everyone that it's okay if you're not feeling festive. This holiday season can be particularly difficult for families because of the societal pressures to buy many expensive gifts for family and friends as a way to show love and appreciation. This is exacerbated by the current economic climate where wages are falling behind the cost of living, subsequently increasing the risk of individuals experiencing depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, relationship conflict, and stress.
Secondly, if you or a loved one is facing financial hardships, try your best to remember that your worth is not tied to material gifts. The true spirit of the holidays is embodied in kindness, compassion, support, and togetherness.
Here are a few tips to help you navigate the financial stress of this holiday season.
1. Open Communication
Transparency and honesty with loved ones about your financial situation can help take off some pressure. With open dialogues, individuals can better understand your situation, express empathy, or perhaps pool resources together to make the celebrations a great one.
2. Mindful Budgeting
Preparing a clear and realistic budget for the holiday expenses can prevent debt accumulation. You can also consider making homemade gifts instead or organizing potluck-style celebrations to share costs. It is also okay to say 'No' if you cannot afford something. Let go of the guilt that often comes with financial burdens. Importantly, remember it's not about expensive gifts but the time spent together that is more meaningful to your loved ones.
3. Cognitive Reframing
Instead of focusing on what you're lacking, try to reframe those thoughts by appreciating what you do have. Cherishing time spent with friends and family or enjoying simple holiday traditions is more valuable than material possessions.
4. Positive Affirmations
Repeatedly telling yourself positive statements, such as "I am more than my financial situation," can help minimize stress and boost self-esteem.
Taking care of your physical, emotional, and mental health is paramount during such times. Eat a balanced diet, exercise, get sufficient sleep, practice mindfulness, and take time for activities you enjoy.
6. Professional Help
If financial stress is significantly impacting your mental health causing severe anxiety, depression, relationship concerns, consistent stress, or triggering addiction, consider reaching out to a mental health professional.
The holiday season invariably brings along the expectation of joy, making it even harder for individuals dealing with anxiety, depression, trauma, ADHD, autism, and stress to navigate this time. Therefore, it's important to remember that you are not alone, and it's okay to ask for help.
Don't let the financial stress of the season tarnish its true spirit - love, compassion, and togetherness. If you're struggling, consider reaching out to a licensed mental health practitioner, like myself, for professional care and support.
Take care of your mental well-being as we navigate this holiday season together and remember, financial woes do not define you as an individual or dictate your holiday experience. You have the power to make this holiday season about family and friends!