Often, when we hear the term “healthy relationship” we think of intimate or romantic relations. However, healthy relationships expand past your partner and you. We need healthy relationships amongst members in our families and communities to be healthy individuals ourselves.
The holiday season is a period of time when families come together, share stories, catch up, exchange pictures, and give gifts to one another. The holiday season is a time of joy. However, this is not always the case. Many times people get into fights, argue, and do not talk to that family member who has not paid them back that $40 they borrowed over the summer. This happens.
Did you know that African Americans experience their highest levels of depression between mid-November until early January? Why do many African Americans feel down and blue during a season of joy and happiness?
Relationships can cause turmoil, conflict or stress at any time, but tensions are often heightened during the holidays. Family misunderstandings and conflicts can intensify, especially if you are bunched together for several days. On the other hand, facing the holidays without a loved one can be tough and leave you feeling lonely and sad. We need to support one another and ourselves during this season.
Managing the holiday pressure
Other pressures that cause stress during the holidays are finances and physical demands. Finances, with the added expenses of gifts, travel, food, and entertainment, can put a strain on your budget and your emotional wellness. Not to mention that overspending can mean financial worries for months to come.
Holiday physical demands are such that even die-hard holiday fanatics may find that the extra shopping and socializing can leave them wiped out. Being exhausted increases your stress, creating a vicious cycle.
Five steps to healthy holidays
1) Be honest and realistic with yourself: The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. Do not allow unrealistic holiday expectations to dictate your thoughts, speech and actions. Just don’t! If you find yourself thinking things like, “Is that gift good enough?” this is a red flag, a sign that you are not doing what you want. You need to be pleased with yourself first before you can give anyone anything valuable.
2) Set differences aside: If someone in your family is not “acting right,” chances are they have not been acting right before the holiday season. This is not the time to confront them. However, they may need to be confronted. Choose your battles wisely. There is a time and place for everything, so do not ruin everybody’s day because cousin Pookie is a knucklehead.
3) Plan ahead and stick to it: You know and I know that the holidays are coming up. We know this! So, why are you waiting to get things done? Why put the pressure on yourself to get stuff done tomorrow when you can get stuff done today. Also, decide what you want to do. If you do not want to be with family, then make plans to let them know today. If you want to be with family, make plans now so you can be there with them. Do not let time be your enemy; let time be your friend.
4) Say “No!” (to yourself and everyone else): That’s right, say no. Say no to yourself first, and then say no to others. Do not stretch yourself due to “holiday guilt.” You do not have to do things you do not want to do just because it is the holidays. Do not feel the need to eat that extra slice of pie. No. Do not feel the need to go out and grab that extra stocking stuffer. No. If your job asks you to work overtime and you do not want to, say no. By saying yes to everything, you add to your already filled agenda, which causes more stress and anxiety for you.
5) Seek professional counseling: That’s right, go speak to someone who gets paid to listen to other people’s issues. As African Americans, we must stop believing we are superwomen and supermen. We need to stop consuming stress like we consume holiday cookies. It is okay to go speak with someone about your struggles. This season is when many African Americans have high levels of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. There is a reason counseling is out there. Use it.
Do not let the holidays become something you dread. This is not what this season is supposed to be. Instead, take steps to prevent the stress and depression that can descend during the holidays. With a little planning, some positive thinking, and being able to stop doing many of the things you do on a daily basis, you may find that you enjoy the holidays this year more than you thought you could. Make the holidays work for you. Do not work for the holidays! So, do not just have happy holidays this year, have healthy holidays.
Healthy holidays, everyone!
Brandon Jones, M.A., a BeMore coordinator, welcomes reader responses to bjones@the familypartnership.org.