|Posted on November 21, 2018 at 7:20 PM|
There is so much pressure to do the holidays the "right way" that sometimes I feel like I might lose my shit! I don't know about you, but every year not long after Halloween I get that feeling. I start staring longingly out the window waiting for those first snowflakes. I have visions of pristine glistening blankets of snow, a roaring fire, hot chocolate, and twinkling lights. Those lights are reflecting from every newly cleaned surface of the house. I can almost smell the cookies baking, the family feasts being prepared, and I envision my sweet loving family gathered ‘round the most chicly decorated holiday table ever.
Then reality kicks in and I realize that this is all a beautiful lie. I despise snow, everything about it except for staring out the window when it first lands. I have a fireplace that rarely gets lit and as far as the clean house…well, I try. I'm not even going to address that chicly decorated table-which should tell you all you need to know. My family is loving, but we are far from sweet and idyllic. We are more likely to be arguing loudly (and lovingly) over politics, current events or sports than. We are a passionate and boisterous bunch. I love them, and I want their holidays to be perfect. So much so that I drive myself to the brink of insanity…ok maybe not insanity but certainly I stress enough to see the bottom of more than one bottle of wine. I generally do not have a problem with perfectionism. It seems to only rear its ugly little head when I am trying to prepare for the holiday season.
We all struggle with something through the holidays. I am in many groups on social media, and it got me wondering if others felt similar or if not what they might stress about. So, I asked a few ladies from some local mom's groups I am in what their most significant struggles for the holiday season are; and this is what I discovered. Tiffany replied, "dealing with that ONE family member, there is always one." Jessica said, "Getting enough sleep while family is in town; keeping the house clean while too many people are in it and feeling like I have to constantly entertain." Kirstin mentioned, "I never feel like there is enough time to get all the things done that need done, between buying gifts, spending time with family, cooking, cleaning, working, kids, etc.".
I imagine since you're still reading… something here does. We all know how stressful the holidays can be. We worry about everything from burning the turkey to stringing up lights to what Aunt Karen will say about our hair this year. That is the stuff on the surface, stuff that can lead to more difficult things to manage like anxiety and depression. Both of which can take a toll, not just on you but on your relationships too, which it is why these tips are so valuable. It is entirely possible to keep your shit together during the holiday season. Keep reading for my seven survival tips.
If we don't take care of ourselves first, we can't take care of anyone else. Each of us had different concerns for the upcoming holidays season, but they all fit into some surprisingly common themes that include perfectionism, time management, learning how to say no or being more assertive, self-care, managing expectations, and coping with the emotional toll that everyday stress plus holiday stress can place on us. When we are too busy, on a budget, going through a loss or grieving, having family or marital issues, have mental health concerns or maybe are just introverted, the holidays can be a tough time to manage. Anyone of these can lead to feeling like we are at our wit's end, have had it, we are about to lose our shit! Or, it can make us feel bad, wondering how everyone else gets everything done and we are so inadequate. We beat ourselves up or put on a brave face and say we are fine when we know we really feel unhappy. BUT…..it does not have to be this way!
So, we can keep doing the same thing over and over year after year, (the definition of insanity) or we can reach out for some help. As a psychotherapist, I know how powerful therapy can be. Some of you might be thinking, Wait? What? Therapy for the wanting a "perfect Christmas"? Therapy to manage my time? I don't have problems that need THERAPY. Well, here's the thing… therapy has a branding problem. It's not all about blaming your mother and feeling all the feelings. Sure, that can be part of it, but more often it is about learning. Learning about yourself and how you handle the world around you. You learn how to navigate relationships in a more balanced and healthy manner. Often sleep, and nutrition habits improve. You are supported in a safe space that encourages you to share and grow. You learn coping skills, how to plan an exit strategy from those family gatherings that prove to be too much, you gain help in creating and sticking to boundaries for yourself and others, how to be more present, experience more joy, and LOVE the life you are living. You feel empowered because you do the work, whether it is learning, sharing, listening, venting or finally feeling heard you have given yourself a gift. It is a gift to take care of yourself so that you can give your best to those around you. In the meantime here are my tips for navigating the holiday season.
Tip 1-NO! It's a one-word sentence. Life is not a game of Whack a Mole. Slow the frenzied pace and accept that some things may not get done or you may not be able to participate in every event or gathering. It's OKAY to ask for help. You don't have to do everything by yourself (You are not in fact superwoman)! If you need additional help with this ask me about my "NOT To Do List."
Tip 2-Don't be alone (unless you want to be). If you are feeling overwhelmed and need to step away for a bit, or you are an introvert that needs to recharge, give yourself permission to take the time you need to recharge. If you are feeling lonely, are single, dealing with a loss or the anniversary of a trauma, reach out to others-do not isolate yourself, it's ok to ask to be included in things offer to bring something, most people are more than happy to include others. Plan ahead, find other's like you and gather together. If you don't celebrate the holiday plan an alternative outing or treat yourself to something special. Helping others is also a great way to spend the holidays. And finally, if you only have the strength to get through the day, that's okay too! Do what you can to pass the time.
Tip 3- Maintain PRESENCE over presents this year. Being present means to concentrate all your thoughts, feelings and attention on the task at hand, rather than on multiple things at once. So often we are ten steps ahead or thinking of, or even doing another job (this one is for you multitaskers) that we barely pay attention to what is right in front of us. The lack of focus on one thing at a time can lead to additional stress and anxiety, but more importantly, it can strip you of your joy!
Tip 4- Stop with the guilt and shame-ain't nobody got time for that! Often when we think of guilt and shame, we think of other people doing it to us or making us feel that way, but there is also this little voice we all have called the inner critic that loves to nag us with guilt or shame. Recognize it for what it is and shut it down! You are doing the best you can. And while we're at it, let's assume that about others too! If you want help silencing the inner critic, get in touch, we have a group called Perfectly Imperfect-Silencing the Inner Critic.
Tip 5-Adjust your expectations. (Calling all perfectionists... I'm talking to you!) Sometimes we need to step back and recognize that imperfections do not mean disaster. So what if we burn the stuffing or the cat tore half the Christmas tree down. If we come to expect that some things will go wrong because it is a part of life, it fosters resilience and growth, (and gives us a little breathing room). Finally, remember what is really important, at the end of it all, the decorations, clean house, or any of the other little things won't matter a bit.
Tip 6-Take time for self-care. Treat Yo Self! Self-care means different things to different people. There is a misconception surrounding self-care that I want to address. The first is that self-care has to mean spending money on yourself. The saying "Treat Yo-Self" is from Parks and Rec https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZsABTmT1_M0 and the characters go all out. That is not necessary though. We can treat ourselves by getting enough rest, maintaining a healthy diet, exercise, reducing stress, participating in mindfulness meditation, yoga, or another free hobby that energizes us. For more ways to care for yourself sign up for our mailing list.
Tip 7-Practice Gratitude There are many ways to practice gratitude. Set the intention. Make it a part of your daily activity. Make a gratitude jar, write something you are grateful for every day starting on Thanksgiving for a year and drop it in that jar. Then next Thanksgiving open it and read it, share the moments with others if you can. If you are struggling to feel grateful try to get back to the basics, remind yourself of the little things you have and how lucky you are for those. Finally, there are gratitude meditations that are also helpful, as is mindfulness.
So, while the holidays can be a shitshow, you can keep yourself together by following these tips. If you need more help than that, reach out. Whether you need help with family, stress and anxiety, sobriety, self-esteem, competency, loss, trauma, perfectionism or just a little guidance, Our Therapy Journey can help you keep it all together this holiday season.
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