Imagine a beautiful wintery scene: outside, a light dusting is beginning to form on the houses and cars on your street. Inside, you are cozying up by the crackling fire, surrounded by a perfectly trimmed tree and your smiling family (who of course is wearing matching fuzzy pajamas). It’s the most wonderful time of the year…
Everything seems perfect, right? The holidays can be filled with twinkling lights, joyful laughter, and a sense of warmth, friendship, and family.But let’s shed our holiday filters and look at the reality. This season can also feel anything but peaceful and merry. In fact, for many of us the holidays are filled with stress, loneliness, and can carry some particularly challenging memories and hard to navigate emotions. Dealing with these challenges, while trying to craft an idyllic holiday season can feel like ice-skating uphill.
Added social and financial demands, difficult family dynamics, feelings of loneliness, or even the ache of missing loved ones, can all cloud the festivities and affect one’s mental health. So, take a moment and breathe. Let’s start by acknowledging that it’s perfectly okay to not feel all that holly and jolly during the holidays.
Navigating the Extra Pressure and Expectations of the Holiday Season
Coping with holidays often means managing mountains of expectations and high-pressure situations. This could range from managing your children’s ever-changing Christmas lists, to organizing get-togethers with family in different states, to trying to make it to and through all your social obligations. Scenarios like these can easily make your holiday season feel less like a joyful break and more like an intense sprint to the finish line.
All the pressure can be overwhelming, and attempting to meet all these expectations can leave very little room to enjoy holiday moments authentically. It’s crucial to remember that your holiday experience is personal, and what works for someone else may not work for you. “After the holidays” becomes something we all tell ourselves, but it is important to prioritize your mental health during the holidays, in order to prevent burn out and so that you can show up fully.
If the build up of holiday stress seems like too much for you to handle, you are not alone. A be.Well therapist or Mind Body Practitioner is here to help you make sense of your feelings and give you ways to cope with the added demands and stress of this busy time.
Create Space for Yourself Amidst the Holiday Buzz: Setting Boundaries
The holiday season can often make maintaining boundaries quite difficult, especially if you are setting or upholding brand new boundaries with friends and/or family. Because of the upswing in social interactions and heightened family expectations, it becomes essential to define what you can and cannot tolerate. And even though “but it’s the holidays” may creep into your mind (or out of the mouths of others), it is important to stay firm and honor your boundaries.
Consider your emotional energy and time as valuable currency, investing them where they make sense and are energizing to you. Saying ‘no’ to situations or activities that feel draining is totally OK and is often necessary for your mental wellness. Even if you have always participated in a tradition or event in the past, it is perfectly healthy to reevaluate what serves you now.
Create space for yourself amidst the holiday buzz. This could mean skipping the yearly family dinner or opting for shorter visits. You have every right to redefine your holiday and shape it the way that suits you and your current needs, even if you have always done something in the past.
This also goes for how to navigate the holidays with your partner. Sometimes finding ways to celebrate with your partner can be difficult and can lead to feelings of loneliness and even resentment. Remember, you don’t have to follow traditional norms or stereotypical traditions! If you and your partner both feel strongly about celebrating with your own families separately, that is ok! It is ok to spend time apart or split time in a way that may feel against the grain, the goal isn’t to suffer through the holidays, it is about celebrating in your own way and finding as much joy during the season as you can.
The important part is that you communicate directly and openly to your family, friends, and partner. Acknowledge that your holiday experience may look different from how it has in the past. Let your loved ones know about your comfort zones, and be open to respectful discussions about it. Remember, setting boundaries is a stride towards self-preservation and wellness, and not a thorn in the holiday spirit.
Money is Not The Reason for the Season: Dealing With Financial Stress During the Holidays
It’s no secret that holidays can be an expensive affair: gifts, travel, preparing lavish meals, and more. Financial strain can add an additional layer of distress and anxiety during the holidays for many of us. This added pressure can end up causing additional turmoil during these festive times. Recognizing the financial boundaries you’re comfortable with, and communicating this openly, can help alleviate the burden of money stress during the holidays.
“The holidays are a time for you to connect with those around you and show yourself some extra love. It’s not a time to go beyond your financial means, burn yourself out, or give in to monetary pressures.” says Dyvia Robin LMHC, be.Well psychotherapist “You can give others the gift of your presence, support, or reflection. This is even more meaningful to the longevity of a relationship than a physical item.”
Not All Merry and Bright: Loneliness During The Most Wonderful Time of Year
Some of us find ourselves battling intense feelings of loneliness or sadness during the holidays. You can be in a crowded shopping mall surrounded by hustle and bustle and still feel incredibly alone, this feeling is not uncommon, even for those who have large families or are surrounded by plenty of friends. On the other hand, those of us who may not have friends or family around to share the holiday season with, may have a hard time with feelings of loneliness or even isolation.
In addition, the end of the year tends to be a time of reflection, and many of us reflect on the past year; the shoulds, coulds, and woulds of our life. Sometimes we find ourselves wishing our lives took a different path, or because of all the images of happy families and bright celebrations, we begin to compare ourselves to the greeting card images and social media posts we see all around us.
It’s important to reach out to others or seek support, so that your loneliness doesn’t cast a dark shadow over your holiday season. It’s important to remember; asking for help when you’re feeling overwhelmed isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s the bravest act of self-care one can do.
Be.Well Can Help You Survive the Holidays
The holiday season can be a mixed bag of emotions and experiences. While there’s joy in the air and warmth around every corner, it’s also not unusual for individuals to feel a layer of stress during this time. Understanding the sources of this stress and connecting with each other is a crucial part of fostering empathy and being there for those who need it. Remember that you are not alone in your journey and be.Well is here to help. One of our trained therapists or Mind Body Practitioners can help you navigate these challenges. Together we can brave the holiday season and provide you with strategies to help you feel a little more merry and bright.