Chanukah is often a time of mixed emotions. Some of us look forward to seeing the flicker of the Chanuka Candles, the smell of fresh latkes and the delight of the spinning dreidel. However, it can also be a time of increased stress and anxiety as it means a break from routine. For those who need to travel home and spend extended periods of time with family it can be extra stressful.
For many individuals, spending time with family members can trigger unwanted memories or habits which no longer serve them. Additionally, the stress of providing others with gifts & increased awareness of what others have and we don’t have can be upsetting.
For those who don’t have family with whom to share the holidays, the season can be one of increased loneliness and despondency. It is easy to look around and see what others appear to have and be quick to judge ourselves harshly or curse our fates.
What are some tools we can utilize to overcome these fears and better manage our emotions and increased vulnerability during this season?
Whether we’re going home to spend quality time with loved ones or taking a few days off for “staycation,” we all deserve to maintain a sense of equilibrium and inner peace over the the joyous days of Chanuka.
Try these 8 tips to avoid Chanukah blues the Jewish way
1Stick with routine
Stick to a healthy routine as much as possible. Wake up close to your normal wake-time. The body has its own rhythm that needs to be maintained. Sleeping in once or twice is okay of course, but continuously over-sleeping in will lead to increased stress, depression, and overall yuckiness.
2Break with a capital B
Avoid work-related obligations as much as possible; if you’re taking a break, really take a break and let your to do’s wait until you are back at work. Don’t half break – half work lest you end up a miserable.
Rediscover your world, and try going cell-phone, laptop, or tablet free for a specific duration. Maybe for the first half hours the candles are lit, a particularly auspicious time. When we are free from the distraction of our phones, a world of curiosity and possibilities opens up.
Stick to a fitness routine; the extra food and less movement over the holidays can catch up to us emotionally and having a fitness routine built in is one way of combating this. Exercise also reduces anxiety and stress by increasing the production of feel good hormones circulating our bodies.
5Stay with therapy & meds
If you are in therapy or taking medication make sure you have your medication and discuss potential issues with your therapist ahead of time. Take advantage of remote sessions if necessary or helpful to avoid unnecessary last-minute crisis and complications. Just because you’re taking a break from work, your emotional health need not suffer.
6Food & mood
Watch what you eat; stay mindful of food choices & portion sizes. This is not about being calorie conscious, this is about how foods affect us in different ways. It is important to realize the effect food has on our energy levels (salt, sugar, caffeine, alcohol etc.), especially the fried foods we are accustomed to on Chanukah. If you find yourself sensitive to the food and mood correlation, try cutting portions in half, and have fun experimenting with healthy food swaps like baked latkes or donuts!
7Excuse yourself, yes you can!
Know how to remove yourself politely. If people are discussing something you find stressful or hurtful it’s okay to walk away and take some time for yourself. Indulge in some music, a favorite podcast, catch a shower or short walk to pass the time productively. I recently discovered a great podcast from Dr. Philip Muskin, Professor of Psychiatry New York-Presbyterian Hospital, where he shares insights and pointers on “Holiday Blues”. Check it out here.
8Designate a safety pal
Try to have a ‘safety person’; someone you can utilize if you find yourself overwhelmed. This is a person you can check-in with to remind you to breathe and take a time-out. This can be your therapist, friend, parent, sibling, or get creative.
For more talk on holidays, coping skills, and dealing with emotions check out these topics
Wishing you a joyous and light-filled Chanukah!
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