Whether you look forward to the Holidays with excitement, or whether you dread the thought of them, the Holidays can be stressful! According to Family Therapist Murray Bowen, M.D., there are two conflicting needs in a family, the need for togetherness and the need for separateness. These opposing forces tend to cause anxiety in a family.
We sometimes go into the Holiday Season with expectations of fun, sharing, caring, warmth, and the feeling of comfort. Sometimes, these expectations are met, but often, being with family throws us right back into childhood patterns and behaviors which can bring up feelings of loss, sadness, worthlessness, aloneness, and disappointment. Old sibling rivalries may arise, or conflicts with mom and/or dad that have been avoided for years may rear their ugly head. There is also the added stress of shopping, traffic, traveling, cooking, and finances. All of this may lead to feelings of depression and anxiety which is not uncommon during the Holidays. These feelings may be intensified if you have suffered a loss, such as a break-up, divorce, or death of a loved one or pet. Here are some tips to help you get through the Season while taking care of yourself:
1. Be aware of and acknowledge your feelings
Your feelings are real and valid. If you are feeling sad, it is okay! It is also okay to cry to express your feelings (men, too).
2. Try not to isolate
If family is not safe, find your friends, clergy, or groups who bring you comfort.
3. Be realistic
Families grow and change, and so too may family traditions. Try and be flexible. Do not expect perfection from the Holidays. Try and accept family and friends for who they are, not who you want them to be. Striving for perfection is unrealistic.
4. Set healthy boundaries
It is okay to say “No.” Attempting to please everybody and be liked by everyone is overwhelming and can lead you to feeling more depressed, anxious, angry, and exploited! If you are always saying “Yes,” implementing this may initially seem difficult and leave you feeling guilty. It is okay to feel guilty. FEELING guilty does not mean you have DONE something wrong. As you practice setting boundaries, the feelings of guilt will lessen in intensity. Many of you will be flying this season. I like this in-flight analogy and use it often with my clients, “Put your oxygen mask on before helping another put theirs on.” You cannot be of help to others if you are not taking care of yourself first!
5. Seek professional help if you need it
If you are feeling persistently sad, irritable, or anxious, if you notice changes in your eating, if you are experiencing changes in your sleep, or if you are feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope, seek help from a mental health professional.
I wish you all a joyous and peaceful Holiday Season!