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  • Sara Loredo

Dear Stress, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays...

As Covid fears and protocols slowly subside we can not help but feel an overwhelming pressure to make up for lost time. This pressure can have us overextending and compel us to go to additional family gatherings, work events, socials, and outdoor activities to celebrate the holiday season. Our once comfortable excuse to avoid social gatherings is no longer available. The holiday season already tends to affect our daily life, having us spiral out of control into the new year. Here are some ways to combat these pressures and stress.

Be realistic:

Too often we fantasized the holidays would be one of those great Hallmark Christmas movies that we all love to binge watch. The sad truth is we do not have a set crew and directors to add the cheesy holiday spirit. The holidays do not have to be perfect in order for you to enjoy them. Being aware before you start preparing, by acknowledging that things may not go exactly as planned. Even though your holiday plans may not be picture perfect, that is Okay, you can find ways to celebrate the imperfections that are normal and healthy in everyday life.

Acknowledge your feelings:

The holidays not only bring up positive pleasant emotions but can also bring a lot of difficult emotions as well. From feeling overwhelmed, sadness, anger, or resentment. Some of these emotions can be attached to missing a loved one who recently passed or one from many years ago. It is important to acknowledge and express these feelings. It is okay to take time for yourself and not force yourself to be happy just because it's the holiday season.

Set your own values:

So many times we get lost in the obligations and traditions of the holiday season that we do not know what we are truly celebrating anymore. Take some time to reflect on what holidays and traditions and identify which parts you value the most. Is it the food, the beliefs, decor, people, or music? Do not limit yourself to what you are used to, feel free to add creative touches or set up new traditions based on these values. By determining what is truly important to you, you can ensure you are engaging in things that matter instead of what you feel like you have to do to make others happy. Sometimes we have to find a balance if there are celebrations you value but have conflict with certain family members. It is important to Identify which family members you value vs. ones you need to keep at a distance.

Set boundaries:

Once you define which holidays and traditions to celebrate, it is time to set and maintain boundaries. Yes, saying no during the holidays can be even more difficult but it is important to honor your wants and needs. Do not wait until the last minute to inform family and friends of your plans to avoid upsetting or hurting others feelings. You can’t change how others act but you can change how you respond to situations. Plan ahead for any possible conflicts related to family or holiday seasons. What are some coping skills to combat these stressors? Can you join the important part by leaving early or coming late? Where are areas you can compromise? Can you bring someone with you or find safe places to take a break from tense moments?

Set aside differences:

In addition to setting personal boundaries, another great tool to use is building acceptance of family members and friends as they are, even if they do not live up to all of your expectations or standards. By setting aside our grievances and learning to accept others' differences until there is a more appropriate time for discussion. By gaining understanding that others' emotional response might be a sign of their own emotional struggles with the holidays. Be aware that not everyone has the same knowledge and awareness of their emotional stage and how it impacts their behaviors.

Prioritize your time:

So many times when things become stressful in our life the first thing we tend to let go are the things we do for ourselves. This is the time we have to continue with self-care practices and not abandon healthy habits. Find a balance structure that allows you to freely celebrate the holiday season without overindulging inorder to manage stressors. Try these suggestions: Include healthy snacks or sides with holiday meals, get plenty of rest, keep up with regular physical activity by adding it to your daily routine, try deep-breathing exercises, or yoga.

Stay Connected:

If you are noticing an increased sense of loneliness or intense urge to be isolated, seek out a religious or other social community. Nowadays there are many ways to stay connected and build a community through online support groups, social media sites or virtual events. These different outlets could add friendship and companionship. Share these feelings of stress or concerns about the holidays with friends or family members. Scheduled out time to text, a call or a video chat or meet in-person so it does not remain a thought. Volunteering is a great way to distract yourself by contributing your time or energy to others. It is also a good way to lift your spirits by thinking of others and broaden your connections. For example, consider doing something thoughtful, giving away things you don’t need, or helping others in need.

Instead of letting the holidays become something you dread, considering these factors could help reduce stress and ensure a peaceful and meaningful holiday season. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers so that you can combat them. With a little planning and some refarming, you can find peace and joy during the holidays. Sometimes despite our best efforts, sometimes you could find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious that leads to physical health issues, limited sleep, irritability and hopelessness, or unable to complete tasks. If these feelings last for a while, please consider reaching out to your doctor or a mental health professional.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Calm Mind Counseling Center if you need additional support or guidance.

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