Here Come the Holidays
As the holidays quickly approach and we are busy making our shopping lists and turkey timetables, I thought it might also be helpful to take a minute to remind ourselves of some healthy practices for our emotional well-being. All of these would be great to discuss with your therapist (and if you don’t have one yet, by all means use the PTC directory to find one!).
Check your expectations. Things like Hallmark Christmas movies and Pinterest fuel our fantasy of having that perfect holiday. Perfection is a concept that should be applied only to mathematics—not human endeavors. Consider what is fueling this fantasy of the perfect holiday. Be kind to yourself and those around you by changing your aspirations from perfection to goodness. The charcuterie platter I tried last year was a major Pinterest fail as far as aesthetics go, but it did taste delicious and gave us something to laugh at. And tasty food and laughter are good.
Address your holiday blues. The loss of loved ones is particularly difficult during this time. Perhaps your financial situation is reduced this year and that is causing anxiety. Maybe you have less than ideal family relations and that is never more obvious than during the holidays. Now is a great time for those issues to come to the forefront in your therapy sessions. Attend to these memories and feelings with thoughtfulness and care.
Take care of you. We all indulge a little during the season; however, if you find yourself with a desire to over consume it is likely a sign of personal or relational distress. Unfortunately, overindulgence in sugar, carbs, and alcohol will likely only fuel feelings of depression or anxiety. Make it a priority to take care of yourself physically as well as emotionally and you will be better equipped to handle the stress of the season. Exercise, eat well, meditate, get a massage, volunteer, book an extra session with your therapist…whatever you can do to stay centered and strong – you will thank yourself for in January.
Focus on the sacred aspects of the holidays. I absolutely love the decorating, baking, and shopping part of Christmas. But I find that it becomes a little shallow if I don’t also incorporate aspects of the sacred into my holiday. If you find something meaningful in the biblical Christmas story spend time with it in quiet contemplation. Plan to attend a Christmas Eve service or mass. Perhaps it would be more your style to celebrate the Winter Solstice. Create rituals and meaning around themes, such as light breaking forth in darkness, times of transition (represented in the cycles of nature), or stillness and waiting. I like to light every candle I own on the evening of the solstice and sit in quite meditation. By spending time contemplating Mystery we often find ourselves soothed as we reconnect with a deeper part of ourselves.
Set boundaries. The sheer amount of options available to us these days can be overwhelming. Put a little thought into what you want your holiday season to look like and then be intentional about what activities you (or your children) choose to do. It can be particularly stressful for children of divorce and blended families to figure out who goes where and when on the important days. Open discussions about wants and expectations can go a long way in avoiding hurt feelings. But as you know, you can’t please everyone. It can be hard to tolerate the feelings of disappointing people or letting them down. Now is the time to think about and process those emotions before you feel under pressure.
The holidays are a wonderful time for celebration of the things we hold dear. That doesn’t mean that they can’t also be stressful and stretch our emotional and relational resources. It can be a paradoxical best of times and worst of times. Hopefully this simple list of suggestions can spark some inner reflection as you prepare to have a good (not perfect!) holiday season.