The holiday season is a time that promotes rest, love, tradition, reflection, and gathering. While this may be true, the holidays also include grief, stress, frustration, loneliness, and many other emotions. We often have the idea that they will look like the Hallmark imagery plastered across our screens, but the holidays are a mix of emotions and experiences, not one-size-fits-all. They can be difficult.
As we continue into the heart of the holiday season, here are a few considerations for managing the mixed emotions and pressure that may arise.
The Holidays Are Yours
A powerful reminder can be the simple statement that the holidays are yours. If there is something you don’t like, a tradition, the stress of planning, whatever it may be, you are allowed to make a change. You can create a Holiday season that honors you.
A tool for creating a season that feels right to you is to spend time identifying the stressful points. Maybe that is the stress of traveling home for the holidays or always hosting gatherings. Spend time reflecting on the past years and examine what works and doesn’t work. It’s okay to make a change, even if it is a pattern or tradition that has been in place for generations.
Practice Being Unsurprised
In the Podcast, We Can Do Hard Things with Glennon Doyle, she discusses the concept of being unsurprised by familial or community patterns during the holidays. So often, we may dread engaging with members of our families due to wounding, deep emotions attached, and differing worldviews. If we change our mindset, one that reflects Radical Acceptance to almost anticipate the comments that we know do not sit well with us, we increase our emotional regulation, be detached, and have autonomy.
If it feels safe, spend some time thinking about scenarios or comments you may receive during gatherings. For example, maybe the remark you encounter frequently is related to your relationship status. By thinking about it in terms of expecting to get the comments, being unsurprised by them, you can choose if you want to exert energy to respond or to ignore. Remember that the choice can be yours.
Along these lines is remembering that you are allowed to set boundaries. You are allowed to say no, not attend a gathering, or to say yes. You are not responsible for what other people say or do, but you are only responsible for yourself. Spending time identifying and setting boundaries can increase your emotional and physical wellbeing and protect your energy.
Practice Healthy Habits
As restful and joyful as the holiday season intends to be, in all honesty, it often is the opposite. It is beneficial that amid the stressful and emotionally taxing season that you take care of yourself. To practice habits that increase your emotional baseline and improve mental and physical health.
Practices include maintaining and prioritizing proper sleep, exercise, eating habits, spiritual/religious practices, and self-care. Remember that it is okay to enjoy good food during this season, permitting yourself to and balancing with eating nutritiously. With the fast-paced nature and busyness of this season, it can be helpful to make a schedule or set a routine to preserve the priority of taking care of yourself.
It can be helpful to remember the resources you have available and can use if you feel overstimulated, stressed, or identify that you need a break. Creating a list of coping skills and resources can be a handy tool to come back to when you need it.
We hope that however, your season looks, that it honors you, your values, and brings you joy.
Written by: Chardyce Kott, LSW