Though most people consider the holiday season to be a wonderful time that brings peace, harmony and joy to everyone involved, the various expectations and pressures that lurk behind the seasonal events can leave many of us feeling overwhelmed and nervous. Will I have everything ready? Will I meet everyone’s expectations? Will I buy the right gifts? Will I get everything completed on time?
The most important aspect to consider during the holidays is self-care or taking care of yourself first. Remember that when we get stressed, others are affected, especially our relational partner and family members, who may feel neglected and possibly abandoned.
Here are some tips to assist you and your family in getting through the holidays unscathed.
1. Think ahead: The best offense is a good defense, so try to prevent stress in the first place, especially if you know from past experience that the holidays can take an emotional toll on you. If stress has already reached its peak, it can be more difficult for you to calm down; rethink your plan and regroup.
2. Be aware of your feelings: Acknowledge whatever emotions you are experiencing and accept them. If you feel that you cannot spend the holidays with the people you love the most, or something else has transpired during the past year, remember that it is okay to feel sad. It also is okay to express your feelings. You do not have to pretend to be happy because a particular date dictates it.
3. Be realistic: Try to be realistic about your goals and what you will be able to achieve this year. The holidays do not have to be absolutely perfect. It is important to remember that if you had a great time last year, everything does not have to be exactly the same this year. As people grow and change, holiday rituals can change as well. Let your partner and your family help you decide what rituals you would like to keep and what you would like to change.
4. Set aside your differences: Holidays are not the right time to hash out differences or problems with your friends or family members. Try to accept them for who they are, even if they let you down in some way, or fail to live up to your expectations. Try to be understanding and know they may be experiencing stress as well.
5. Don’t be afraid to say “no”: Family and friends will understand if you cannot participate in absolutely every holiday event. Remember that taking care of yourself will help reduce your stress.
6. Seek support: If stress does get the best of you and you are having trouble coping, seek additional help through support groups and/or counseling. The New Leaf Center staff can provide therapy services and/or direct you to area support services.
As the holiday time approaches, we wish all of you a fun-filled, stress-free, happy, joyous time to reflect on and value the relationships in your life.
Brenda S. Faiber, M.S., LMFT
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist