The holidays can put a lot of pressure on a lot of us but it really should be something that brings us pleasure. The holidays will be much more enjoyable if we remember that the goal is to make something pleasant and special for ourselves and our loved ones, not to make ourselves stressed and miserable!
KNOW YOUR OWN LIMITS
Do you love to bake cookies? Is decorating your house something you look forward to every year? Are you a passionate shopper who loves picking out special surprises for your 10 nearest and dearest? If that’s you (or one of those is) that’s great! Go for it. By all means do what you enjoy. But if you are not a baker or a chef, if decorating is definitely not your thing, if you can’t stand a lot of your aunts and uncles then by all means eliminate those items from your holiday repertoire. Set realistic goals for the things that you do enjoy and forget the rest. There really aren’t any rules for how to celebrate. If your kids or your spouse want you to “make your special smoked turkey” or ” put out a giant Santa Claus” like the neighbors had last year, you really are not obligated to do so. If the other members of the family want and can do those things, let them. Division of labor is perfectly acceptable. If you have a major deadline at work, finals to study for and the holidays are not your priority this year, speak openly with your loved ones about what you can and cannot do. Anxiety and stress mount if we grudgingly proceed with tasks when we really don’t feel up to it. Open, considerate communication should help others to understand your needs and help the holidays be less stressful for everyone involved.
MAKE YOUR OWN HOLIDAY RITUALS
You don’t have to do it the way the pictures in the magazines represent. Some families go to Disney World every year, some have a quiet dinner at home with a special dessert or egg nog that’s reserved for this time of year. Some make cards with the children and some shop online for everyone. Repetition and labeling can make the simplest thing something special for you and your household. Put the reindeer antlers on the dog and call it a day. Watch It’s a Beautiful Life every year on TV. Holidays don’t require grand, extravagant gestures even though the perfume sellers make it seem essential. Small, personal rituals are wonderful for children, even silly ones. You absolutely do NOT have to spend your holidays the way your mother or your brother does. Do what makes sense to you and what makes you happy. Communicate your wishes to those around you.
TAKE NECESSARY TIME OUTS
Listen to yourself and your body. Get enough sleep and rest. Don’t spend every weekend preparing the house or shopping for gifts. If you have a long day of cooking, cleaning or shopping, build in some time to stretch, listen to a relaxation tape or meditate. Do what ever you can to avoid being on the road or at an airport during the heaviest travel time and if you can’t avoid it, don’t plan on hitting the ground running. Let everyone relax and unwind before going on to the first holiday activity. Organization helps. If you have many things you truly want to do, try plotting it out on a calendar and see if you really have the time to do it all and don’t be over-ambitious.
REMEMBER THOSE LESS FORTUNATE
Build in a community activity for your family or a donation to one of the many agencies that are active at holiday times. Taking the focus off yourself and teaching children to do that as well can reduce the stress on ourselves and remind us of the good fortune we have in our life. No life is perfect. Everyone has loss and sorrow and holidays bring thoughts of setbacks or lost loved ones to mind. Providing help to those in need can help us accept our own grief and reduce the pain of remembering.
If your holiday season stress is unmanageable, please call me at 561-212-5408 to set up an appointment, or email me to learn more.