Kaitlin Broderick M.Ed, LCPC

The holidays are also known as the happiest time of the year. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for a large majority of people. Many find the holidays to be the most stressful time of the year for a myriad of reasons. The holidays can be a source of financial stress for many people ranging from reasons of having to travel to see family, buying gifts for extended amounts of people, decorating the house with lights, or buying food to host parties. Besides the financial stress, the holidays can be a time of sadness and grief for many people. Some people reflect on a loved one who has passed while others mourn the loss of a relationship through a divorce or breakup.

When it feels like everyone else is spending quality time with loved ones, it can bring up a deep feeling of despair for those who are grieving lost relationships. Still, others find it difficult to spend time with their families of origin if they didn’t have the happiest childhood or struggle to connect with their families. The good news is, if you are among one of the many people who struggle with the holidays, there are ways to manage the stress and make sure this time of year
doesn’t completely overwhelm you.

First, take time for self-care and prioritizing yourself. This may be a foreign concept for many of us, especially around the holidays. So much of the focus during this season is on children or loved ones. This holiday season I encourage you to take a step back amidst all of the chaos and ask yourself, “What do I need at this moment?” When you take time to take care of yourself, this is not selfishness. On the contrary, when you take care of yourself, you then can be a more positive source of light for those around you. This is because you aren’t reacting to people in a frenzied stressful state of mind but rather responding from a more harmonious place. Taking time for yourself can include taking a walk around the block and looking at the winter decorations and snow, lighting a candle, doing a meditation, taking a bubble bath or reading a good book. It also includes the basics we often neglect such as getting enough sleep, exercise, and not skipping meals. The thought of doing any of this may seem impossible when you are already so busy, but when you take 10 to 15 minutes to prioritize yourself, it puts you in a better mindset to handle all your tasks and everyone around you.

Another key element is to manage expectations. Expectations can also be known as resentments in the making. If you know that your mom tends to always be critical or your uncle drinks too much and gets obnoxious, don’t go into the holiday thinking that everything will magically be different this year. Instead, mentally prepare for how you will handle these situations in advance. Handling the situation may involve setting boundaries that you aren’t used to setting. A boundary involves asking yourself, “What is and isn’t okay with me?” and thinking of how you are going to take care of yourself so you feel safe. An example of setting a boundary could be leaving the room and getting some air if you feel uncomfortable. It could mean leaving the party early. Maybe it means getting a hotel on your trip even though mom insists you stay with her the entire vacation.

I hope these tips help you in some way to have a happy peaceful holiday this season.