With the holidays just around the corner, I thought I might post a few thoughts on making it through the stress of the holidays to reduce the anxiety and increase the joy. So many people come to counseling this time of year dreading what they have to get done, feeling the financial burden, and having an increase in their grief feelings as they remember loved ones that are no longer here to share in the memories. Others dread being with family who they strategically put off seeing for the rest of the year. Others are just in more of a depressed state because of the looming winter and dark/wet/cold days ahead. So whatever you hesitation to launch in full festive mode, consider the following:
It is okay to say no.
This is one of those times of year that everyone is asking for something and at times, it might feel like everyone is asking for something from you. You can only do what you can do and it’s okay if you can’t do it all. No one can do it all. No one. But, sometimes, we feel like we have to do it all. Early on, determine what you can do and what you WANT to do and don’t add more to that list. When we stick to our limits we set with ourselves and with others, we reduce feeling overwhelmed and feeling resentful.
Don’t spend too much money.
Especially if you don’t have it. Commercially, retailers bank on our high expectations to “go all out”. Look at black Friday which is quickly becoming black Thursday. We get the message loud and clear: The holidays are for spending money. But, it doesn’t have to be. Again, think of what you want to do and what you are able to do, and go from there. Lower your expectations to reasonable and you might feel a lot better.
Have some rituals.
This is especially true for those who have loved and lost. Holidays are so hard when important parts of our families are missing. If you struggle to feel good during the holidays because your grief kicks in, instead of trying to avoid feelings or avoid festivities, try to first feel your feelings and acknowledge your grief. Then, make that missing loved-one a part of your activities. Do something in their honor or to remember them. Include them in the memories you make this year. When we avoid negative feelings, they become more intense. When we feel them, they change. Allow yourself to feel your grief feelings in a new way.
Remember that most things are not the end of the world.
A burned turkey, forgetting an important dish, not starting on time, spilling on the tablecloth, grouchy family members, etc. The day will come and the day will go. Focus on the positive and let the negative go. We get a chance every year to try again. And I guarantee you that what works one year may not work the next. Focus on the things you believe really matter.
Enjoy the moment.
And actually have a moment! This goes for all winter long. Go find snow and make snow angels, sip hot cocoa, go to choir concerts, sing to the holiday music on the radio, make cookies, go for walks with your hats and scarfs and mittens, and give to others. When you have moments to look forward to and take time to be mindful of the potentially beautiful and enjoyable moments you are in, life is a lot more manageable.
With that, I hope everyone can do a little prioritizing, a little no-saying, a little yes-saying, a little giving, and a little loving and enjoy the next few weeks.