This can be a great time of year, but one thing a lot of adults don’t think about as they are rolling around in their own stress, is exactly how stressful this time of year can be for teens like yourselves. To start with, you have a ton of work at school that you have to crank out before the break finally kicks in. And then you are home for a week plus with family, a disrupted routine, too much food, people behaving badly, and the rosy glow of waiting for Santa is gone since you are firmly in between childhood and full-fledged adulthood. Here are a few tips to help you get through – and to help you find a way to enjoy what it is you DO like about the holidays.
Let’s start with school stress. I probably don’t need to explain this one too much. Tests. Reports. Presentations. Projects due. Early college applications. Throw in a couple of holiday events for your extra-curricular activities (long evening concerts, last game before the break, etc), and quickly you see how THERE IS NO TIME TO CRAM IN EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO DO BEFORE FRIDAY! Are you feeling this way?
- Try this – first, take a breath. Now, make a list of everything you need to get done between now and school break. The time to do this is worth it, trust me. Now look at that list and break down each task into steps that you need to do to make them happen. (Read chapters 12 – 16; memorize Spanish vocabulary; look up papers for your project; write a rough draft; etc). Now break down those tasks into steps and what you need to do each day – assign a task to a day / time – to get it done.
How does this help more than just jumping in and getting it done? It helps you feel in control, so that your stress doesn’t spiral out of control and make you freeze up. It saves you the time of figuring out what to do next. Keeps you going to that goal.
OK, now the holidays are here.
A few things that may be stressful about this time are:
- not feeling all with the “Holiday Spirit”
- no routine
- food issues
- adults behaving badly all around you
- being short on money for gifts
- lots more....
Do you feel like you need support now? Click here to call, chat, support and more at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline .
Do you feel weird that you are not a little kid eagerly awaiting Santa? Or that you are not an adult who can make the holidays the way THEY want them to be – decide the food, what you do, what you DON’T do? It is hard to go through the holidays as you change and grow up, and as life affects the holidays. All sorts of things can change from one holiday season to the next – Parents are newly divorced. A parent loses their job and you know that money is an issue for your family. There is a death in the family and Grandma won’t be with you this year. Your big brother has moved too far away to come home for the holidays.
- Tip here: Think about what YOU like about the holidays or what activity you like to do but that your family / friends haven’t done before and make that YOUR new tradition. This can be easy – for New Year’s Eve, get some helium filled balloons and sharpies; write your wishes for the New Year on them and at midnight, let them go. Go caroling with friends. Watch a favorite holiday movie with your family. Have an ugly holiday sweater day. Put a holiday hat on your dog (no amount of treats may help with this!).
Then of course, there are all the questions from oblivious adults – Where are you going to college? What happened to your BF / GF we met last year? How did the SAT go? Why didn’t you apply to my school? Totally annoying I know. One thing you should know is that most adults want to find a common area to talk about, and they go towards what they know you are thinking about.
- A tip: If they ask about something you don’t want to talk about, give them a short and sweet “You know, I don’t know, there are so many schools that interest me” or something like that, and then change the topic to something you want to talk about “But, let me tell you about this great basket I made in the last game / this great song we played in the concert / this cool book I am reading”.
Too many invitations too little time? Between family obligations and friends’ invitations ENOUGH ALREADY! You are right. Too much is not fun.
- You are allowed to say no to some things. Down time is the best part of the break – take advantage of it. Friends nagging you to come out? Turn of your phone. Just politely say you have to go do something else, and then stay cozy in your house. Do everyone a favor though, say "no"! Don’t say yes and then no-show, or say maybe. People would rather hear the real answer, then make other plans. Don’t be flaky and string someone along because you are afraid of hurting their feelings with a “no, thanks”. Seriously, the last minute cancellation or no-show hurts feelings more.
Does being surrounded by food stress you out? Are you struggling with an eating disorder that fires up over the holidays? I thought this blog post on NEDA's website was pretty helpful with some tips to help you get through a common trigger time when you have an eating disorder: Navigating the Holiday Season - NEDA
OK, here are a few general more tips to help you get through:
- Take a few minutes to be calm and still. Try some deep breathing – breathe in for a count of 3, then hold your breath for a count of 3, then slowly out, for, you guessed it, a count of 3. This really helps get the edge off in the moment. And if done daily for a few minutes, this can really help your mind settle.
- EXERCISE! Doesn’t matter what it is – dance party in your room with your fave songs playing, walking the dog, hit the gym, go for a run, a little yoga in the living room. Again, takes the edge off and gets those endorphins (feel-good brain chemicals that your body releases) fire up.
- Take a few minutes to think about what you are grateful for in the morning when you first wake up. Seriously – alarm goes off / you wake up slowly (depending if we are talking before school break or during school break!) and right then, think about the fact you are grateful for your best friend, that you have food to eat, etc. This puts your mind in a positive place so that you can get through your day!
- Volunteer – this can get you out of the house, and you know that helping others makes you feel happier about yourself. You can do something organized, or even just go visit and elderly neighbor or offer to help out a mom with little kids so she can get a break or take up a collection to take to a food kitchen / clothing donation nonprofit, etc.
- Homemade gifts!!! Make your own cards, make a “gift certificate” to do something that you are good at for someone else. Make an agreement with your friends that you’ll all get together but NOT exchange gifts this year. You get the idea. Helps keep the money issue under control, but let’s everyone know that you care about them.
I bet you guys have great ideas here of stuff that works for you – share them below. Or is there something else that stresses you out that we didn’t get to? Share that too, so we can talk about it. You aren’t alone I am sure so what we talk about will help others too! Anonymous comments fine – but they will be reviewed before they are posted.
Until next time, try to enjoy the holidays, and enjoy that much needed break that is right around the corner!