How To Cope With Holiday Stress

Louis Laves-Webb

December 18, 2017

The holidays can be a time to share and come together with your family, to remember those that are no longer with you, and an opportunity to extend yourself beyond your normal interpersonal “comfort zones.” However, there can be an ample amount of stress this time of the year due to the holiday hustle and bustle, grief over lost loved ones, loneliness, spoken or unspoken holiday expectations, or some family dysfunction that can arise during the holidays.

Here are some tangible suggestions to help you cope more positively with the season.

  1. Prioritize yourself
  2. Keep up your own traditions
  3. Take it one step at a time
  4. It’s not going to go perfectly and that’s ok
  5. Keep your boundaries in place
  6. Be courageous and enjoy this time

You Are Your Own Santa

The holidays are traditionally a season of giving to friends, family, and those who you appreciate in your life. However, it’s also important to realize that there is one person who is most deserving of your attention: yourself.

Don’t overlook your own personal time or other “self care” measures. You may need to set aside time for yourself so that you can simply enjoy your own company. This can include having to turn down certain invitations, being more mindful of what you value, or something as simple as a bubble bath or yoga. It can also include, cooking a meal for yourself, doing exercise, spending time with those who make you feel appreciated, or relaxing with your favorite book.

Remember, it’s more difficult to give from an empty plate so make sure you fill yours too.

Own Your Holiday

One of the foundational privileges of living in the United States of America is freedom of expression, religion, and celebration. You get to celebrate this time of year in whatever way you see fit. It can be empowering and encouraging to go ahead and “own” your celebration, whatever that may be.

“Watering down” your own celebration under the guise of being “sensitive” to others, not wanting to rock the boat, or fitting into some type of normative behavior may not actually be the best course of action for you or others.

If you were to more closely examine your possible desire toward “minimizing your celebration” you may realize that it’s due to certain emotional experiences. These often pertain to low self-esteem, projection, negative self-concepts, over-identification, or a lack of efficacy than that of true “sensitivity”.

To be clear, we’re not advocating that you should push your beliefs onto others or be callused to others’ experiences, but more that you shouldn’t disavow your own. So, be mindful that you can stay respectful of others, while still taking ownership over your own holiday.

Eat The Pie In Pieces

At times, the holiday season can bring with it a healthy serving of distractions and tasks. From buying gifts for friends and family to decorating for the holidays, the amount of tasks that need to be done can seem overwhelming at a glance. Instead of trying to “eat the pie” in one sitting, “eat the pie” piece by piece.

You can start by understanding the goal you’re seeking to accomplish. Then, more closely examine each step that needs to be done to accomplish the goal. This helps break the task up into much easier, and often less intimidating, steps that are easier to tackle. Finally, set a timeline for each step and work your way through it even if it feels overwhelming.

By executing the needed behavior even when at first it may feel daunting, tasks that appeared to be overwhelming on the surface can be managed in an easier manner and dealt with accordingly.

There Will Be Leftovers

The holiday season will impact you, in the same way that there will always be leftovers after a feast. It’s an inevitable part of the holiday rush that we may indeed end the season with some amount of hurt feelings, missed opportunities, or things we wished could have been different.

By understanding that there will be bumps in the road ahead, you’re better prepared for them. Let yourself feel. It’s normal to be angry, sad, or feel happiness at times.

You will experience a range of emotions, and just because you may experience some negative feelings during the holidays does not mean that things are all bad; they are just indicators of how you feel and how you may wish to recalibrate in the future. So, stay gentle with yourself and allow yourself to also be human.

Put Foil Under The Menorah

Setting boundaries between what causes you stress and what brings you joy is always important. However, the holiday season can make this particularly crucial. Remember that your ability to say “no,” bears fruit to life saying “yes.”

You get to decide where to put your energy, effort, and time. You can prioritize yourself, those you love, and positive experiences. You can focus on the present moments and work toward making new memories with people who make you feel at peace, go to places that make you happy, and focus on your future instead of unwittingly letting your past determine your future.

You Can Celebrate, No Matter What

Remember, that this time of year is usually a bit of a respite from the day to day. You may have a particular holiday that you’re taking part in or perhaps not. However, you can can choose how you navigate this time.

Events, culture, and circumstances aren’t always in your control, but with some emotional work and intention, you may be able to work toward a level of positivity with a pleasant outlook towards this time of year. There’s no doubt that life contains plenty of suffering, but if you can choose to take a break from the pain for a day or two, you may just find that this momentum builds upon itself and your perspective begins to become more positive overall.

The holiday season can be a time to reflect upon yourself and prepare for another year full of new experiences and opportunities for greater growth. While stress can be associated with the holiday season, you have the opportunity to utilize that stress to deepen your relationship with yourself, strengthen your bonds, and develop greater maturation in your ways of coping.

All of us at Louis Laves-Webb, LCSW, LPC-S & Associates wish you a happy holiday season and a healthy new year.

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