Survive the holidays with grace and peace
Are you ready for the holidays?
I know I am not! For some reason the holidays come the same time every year and every year I seem to be caught off guard. The Calendar even has it printed eleven months early, either the calendar printers are brave or there isn’t much guessing involved. Yet I still scramble every year, I hope I am not alone in this feeling.
So if this doesn’t stir some, there is more, the office parties, cookie swaps, birthday parties, school parties, shopping, wrapping, decorating, menu planning, cleaning, weight watching, cooking, traveling, (have you ever tried to get through O’Hare in winter?). I am sure you can add more to my list as I am not wanting to add more.
One thing I didn’t mention is family and friends. We love to visit, share and spend time with family. For the most part this is the one thing that causes the most anxiety. The family dinner with so many traditions, likes, dislikes, allergies, new diets, and so on. You want to do the traditions justice. What if you are mourning the loss of a loved one, or just the person in which the traditions meant the most to? Then there is the guilt of visiting one person over another. What about if you currently suffer from depression. If it is dark and cold outside, your depression might be worse. The holidays can act as a trigger for your depression.
Part of the problem with the holidays is Norman Rockwell, and Hallmark. Holidays are magical, joyful, and filled with wonderful memories. The problem is that the reality is far more complicated than the movies share. Relationships are far more complicated than that. The longer the history the more complicated the relationship.
The answer? Well you don’t get to just skip over the holidays. That’s too easy and it doesn’t lead to long term self-satisfaction. Here are some ideas to overcome some of the anxiety I reminded you about.
First, let’s identify what is causing your anxiety. What specifically about the holidays is causing your anxiety? Nope, you can’t just go to what I wrote and say, “That” Let’s explore some possible triggers that are identified and work on some solutions.
Going home for the holidays can bring back some bitter memories. If you associate the loss of a love one with the holidays then naturally you will be reminded of these times and people.
Toxic people and relatives:
Perhaps we have worked really hard at establishing boundaries and distancing you from toxic people now you have to break bread with them, maybe share the same sleeping space with them, may make you step back in your own progress in treatment.
What has changed? The holidays can really highlight what has changed. The death of a loved one and their absence can be more noticeable when everyone is together. A military deployment can cause heightened sense of stress. On the opposite side things staying the same can cause a similar sense of depression.
Are you feeling out of control?
Do you have traditions that you can’t stand?
Perhaps your uncle is and out of control alcoholic and is verbally abusive but it is a tradition to visit him on Christmas Eve. Why do you this? What about the trip across the country for a grave site visit to put flowers on the grave for a great aunt you met once? Those cookies that you make every year that taste terrible, but it is tradition to make them on Christmas Eve?
During the holidays is also time for colds, flus, and blues. If you’re stressed out then your immune system is compromised, meaning you are more susceptible to these illnesses.
Ask yourself why then make a list of reason why you take part in these activities and why you don’t want to. This will help you have a clear picture as to why do choose or not choose to do things.
Now that you have the whys ask yourself, what is the worst case scenario? What happens if you don’t travel to the grave site? What if you didn’t make those cookies? What if you didn’t go to your uncles’ house? What if you changed the celebrations and some of the traditions?
Remember at first you might think, “What a disaster!”, “people in the family would get angry!” Could you stay home and light a candle to honor the great aunt? Could you find a new cookie that is easier and tastes amazing?
Basically if you are stressed by the holiday tradition it might be time to change. If you are unhappy it might be time to change.
Some ideas to help you out:
If you need more help, call me or another professional for help!
Shannon Shadman, LPC, MSMHC, NCC, M.Ed.