For some, the holiday season is a joyous occasion. For others, holidays bring to the surface feelings that are the complete opposite of Christmas cheer, usually unwrapping sad reminders that may start as early as Halloween. The holidays can be a roller coaster ride of emotions for many. Below are some steps to a smoother journey through the holiday season.
A lot of people consider the holiday season one of the loneliest times of the year. Many of my clients who come to me for counseling ask whether they are the only ones who feel this way. Coupling this with people who feel that they do not want to “burden” others with their true feelings about the season or certain activities certainly makes for a long season. Consider who you trust and whether you’re willing to have a discussion with this person about your feelings and how this is a difficult time of year for you.
Have a plan. If there are certain parts of the holidays that are more difficult than others, consider what you can look forward to and see if there is a way to steer around activities that are less desirable. This does not mean that everything that is uncomfortable can be avoided; rather, it allows you to make contingency plans, almost like a roadmap, for how to work through a difficult family gathering or situation, such as planning on a long-awaited and tough conversation with a family member.
It’s impossible to be everywhere and do everything. If you set your own realistic expectations for what you can accomplish, you may enjoy your chosen activity more and have less likelihood of disciplining yourself or others because you have only committed to what you can actually honor. Also consider activities you actually want to do, not just those that you can do.
Actualize what makes you happy. Almost everyone has some part of the holiday season they enjoy. Think about what this element is for you and see that it happens. Also, if you have a favorite activity or side dish from childhood that would bring back positive memories, strive to include it. Perhaps think of this as your gift to yourself.
Shift your focus. Before the holiday season kicks into high gear, keep track of something positive that happens every day for a few weeks. Then, if you have a difficult day, you can reflect back to some more positive moments.
Think about what gift-giving means to you. If you can purchase gifts for others that are within your financial means and it gives you joy to do so, that’s great. If you notice that either you cannot afford gifts or you find yourself having to make tough financial decisions because of gift-giving, consider spending time with people you care about. For example, perhaps you can plan a movie marathon with family and friends that includes films you already own. Your gift is in the time spent together and memories.
Whether or not you know what you need to get through the holiday season, remember that there are professional counselors to assist you in untangling the holiday stressors and who can help with shining the light on yourself and providing healthy coping skills.