Declaring War on Stressful Holidays
Declaring War on Stressful Holidays
By Charity Haigans, MA, LPC
Holidays always have a way of bringing out the best, and unfortunately, the worst in all of us. How is it, that the most joyous time of year inevitably degrades into the most stressful and difficult season? Our emotions are on heightened awareness, our fears press forward and our yearly reflections frequently turn towards regret. Yes, the holiday season is not always a smooth carriage ride through the snow. Sometime making positive, lasting memories takes difficult and hard fought change. Perhaps, it’s time to take up the fight and bring real peace and joy to your holidays.
In my experience the largest obstacle to a happy holiday is the expectation of a happy holiday. So caught up in the vision we create in our heads, the other peoples photos we view on Facebook, the retouched memories we wish to recreate, that rarely are we fully present at our own holiday. We compare and contrast our holiday to these unrealistic images and never can they stand up to such scrutiny.
In the face of such disappointment the interactions around us can become hostile. We maximize our hurt and other peoples behavior, while minimizing our own role in causing ourselves such stress. Truth is we tend to blame others for our own stress. If they weren’t so loud, so late, so irresponsible, so rude…well none of this would be happening. I would be relaxed and able to enjoy the holiday.
Declaration of War:
If we are going to declare war on stressful holidays the first thing we must do is acknowledge our own role in creating them. Those around us play a powerful part in our lives, however they cannot make us feel anything. Sure, they contribute to emotions but we have the final say in how we are going to react. We can get angry, we can get sad, we can think obsessively about the situation, we can pretend the situation isn’t happening, whatever the choice we make it is decidedly our choice. Once we recognize the power we have to react in a self-fulfilling way, we can make choices that benefit us rather than detract from our happiness.
Battle of the Boundaries:
Boundaries are, without fail, the most tumultuous piece of the family pie. Because boundaries amongst family member are often created unknowingly we tend not to recognize when we have established unhealthy boundaries that serve to increase familial dissatisfaction. As adults we may have a very healthy set of personal boundaries that we easily maintain in our personal lives outside of the family. However, once we are all back under the same roof those clearly defined lines begin to blur and you find yourself arguing with your sister about the proper consistency of mashed potatoes (a discussion you would never have in any other circumstance). This year really consider what your personal boundaries are in your life and how do those compare to your boundaries within your family. Be sure to communicate your thoughts to family members (before Christmas Eve if possible) and work to maintain these new boundaries throughout the holiday (and all year long).
Digging the Trenches
In the end you have to dig in and get real. Have real expectations not Instagram ideals. Stay in the moment; enjoy the experience for what it truly is, rather than what you thought it would be. Really being present changes everything about the way we view a situation, usually for the better. Put the phone down, turn the iPad off and just be. Be honest, be authentic, be assertive and hopefully be happy. Don’t be perfect, don’t be anticipatory, don’t be resentful, and don’t be silent. Fully showing up, appreciating what is rather than what should be and interacting with those around you wholeheartedly is the most effective way to win the war on stressful holidays.
We wish you all the Happiest and most Stress-free of Holidays!