holiday stress

More Joy and Less Stress this Holiday Season

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This article comes from guest writer, Alyson Jones, Clinical Director at Alyson Jones & Associates where she leads a team of therapists that specialize in separation and divorce issues. She’s sharing some brilliant suggestions on how to mitigate holiday stress and navigate social situations while having a holly jolly time.

Well, it is that time of the year again – time to hang the stockings, trim the tree, and plan the holidays. The holiday season is much anticipated, but the joy of the season can get lost in amongst the stress storm that is created when we have large expectations and limited time. Things move quickly in this life and holiday memories often become our most treasured ones. We do not want to lose ourselves in stress and then miss the meaningful moments.

We know the holidays are filled with social gatherings, dinners, and opportunities to connect and share the joy of the season with others. We also know that this festive season can come with disappointments and disconnection if we do not take care of ourselves. Too little self-care added to a whole lot of togetherness with others can backfire. Just when you thought you might be basking in the bliss of connection and caring, you may actually find yourself in the middle of a meltdown.

As a Child and Family Therapist, I encourage connection and care amongst friends and family – but we have to watch that we do not deplete ourselves to the point where we are lost in the trimmings, and miss the true heart of the season. If we put too much pressure on ourselves, we might miss the opportunities to create meaningful moments. It is important to balance self-care with the care of others.

The reality is, the holidays do bring up a mix of powerful emotions. If we want to prepare for a meaningful holiday season, we have to be honest that we will experience feelings of frustration and stress amongst the mix. Under the pressure of the season, and the heightened emotions that often come at this time of the year, you might hit a landmine and, before you know it, the idyllic holiday gathering turns into a hot mess of emotion with tears of frustration rather than joy.

So, how do we avoid this meltdown? Here are some tips to assist you in taking care of yourself and managing your social interactions this holidays.

  1. Do not set yourself up for failure by planning for the perfect Christmas. Aim to create an exceptional Christmas instead. You will be in for a disappointment if you are trying to create the perfect holiday, as perfection is unattainable and bound to fail. There is lots of room for mistakes, messes, and joy in an exceptional Christmas. We remember the moments of laughter and joy much longer than we remember the gift-wrapping or the place settings.
  2. Accept that there will be ups and downs. Anticipate that emotions are heightened during this time of the year, and you can expect a bit of a roller coaster. Remember that those we love bring out our strongest emotions because we care about them and we care about what they think of us. If we anticipate both highs and low then we will not be thrown off our track when we experience big emotions during the holidays.
  3. Some people get negative when they are stressed by the season – try not to be one of them. If an issue comes up, look for solutions rather than adding to the complaints. Just because somebody else is being a downer does not mean you have to get caught in their web of negativity.
  4. When you gather friends and family, be prepared for disagreements. The best way to disarm a potentially upsetting situation or person is to validate. Even if you do not agree with somebody, let them know that their point makes sense. If the conflict continues, find a way to get out of the middle of it.
  5. Stay away from advice giving – it only annoys people and brings up feelings of resentment. Often people will give advice on how to set a table, cook a turkey, raise children, and wrap presents. Even if you see a better way of doing it, be careful about sharing your brilliant ideas as it can trigger others. If someone is giving you advice that you do not want, just politely express your appreciation for their ideas and move on. Do not dwell on this.
  6. Do not take everything personally. Everyone is human and everyone will make mistakes. If someone is triggering you, tell yourself that their behaviour belongs to them. Just because somebody is saying, or doing something that upsets you, does not mean that it was done intentionally to upset you. Live and let live.
  7. Remember your boundaries and respect the boundaries of others. It is ok to say no if you are overwhelmed, and it is ok to pace yourself thought the holidays.
  8. Take some time for you. Practice being mindful and being in the moment. Remember to breathe deeply and check in with yourself. Sometimes the best thing to do is go for walk and collect yourself before you start another round of social interactions.
  9. Have fun – but watch your alcohol intake. This can be the trigger that sets off the fireworks. The combination of family, friends, heightened emotions, and alcohol can make for a social occasion gone wrong. It is best if we do not stumble into something that requires a lot of emotional clean up afterward. If we do make a mistake, then say sorry and move on.
  10. Be grateful. Even if you are overwhelmed the best way to feel better again is to think about 3 things you are grateful for. This gets us back on track, and it connects us through compassion and care for ourselves and for each other. We all want our loved ones to be grateful for us so it is important that we remember to be grateful for them. Gratitude leads us to the heart of the season.

It is likely that the holidays will create some stress, but a little bit of self-care can go a long way in helping us enjoy the meaningful moments that are the true treasures of the season.

About the Author: Alyson Jones is the Clinical Director at Alyson Jones & Associates where she leads a team of therapists that specialize in separation and divorce issues. She is a Registered Clinical Counsellor, Child and Family Therapist, Parenting Coordinator, Divorce Coach, Child Specialist, Author, and Educator. She developed and oversees the innovative Family Forward Reunification Program, which assists families in navigating through highly complex family issues. Alyson is also an Adjunct Faculty Member at the Adler University. Learn more at www.alysonjones.ca

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