Don’t let the Holidays Stress You Out
Holiday season is quickly approaching. And we all know “it’s the most wonderful time of the year”. Are you ready for it? There’s the holiday cheer, the Thanksgiving gratitude, the holiday parties, the beautiful decorations, an increase in generosity, and the celebration of human geniality. But there’s also the consumerism, awkward family and work gatherings, discordance, endless lists, Scrooges, and so many expectations. The holidays certainly have potential, but if you’re not staying aware, holiday stress becomes a Thanksgiving guest who stays through New Year’s. Staying mindful of what causes holiday stress is important in combating it, Prioritize managing the upcoming holiday stress so you can feel at ease, stay sane, and just maybe, bask in the most epic holiday season ever. Here are 4 things to stop doing to help you manage: 1) Stop Should’ing. Fill in the blanks. The holidays should be _________. I should ______ during the holidays. People should not _____ during the holidays. Anytime the holidays don’t fulfill what you have deemed they “should” fulfill, you likely feel robbed, you feel inadequate, you feel empty. That definitely adds to stress. Should’s (and should not’s) are a commonly used thinking error. Should’s lack compassion, create black and white thinking (another thinking error), create shame, and contribute to dissatisfaction in life. Instead of saying “should”, instead say “it would be nice if…”. Try the fill in the blanks again. It would be nice for the holidays to be ________. It would be nice if I _____ during the holidays. It would be nice if people did not ______ during the holidays. No more expectations. No more thinking things as successes or failures. Instead, there’s a spectrum of possibility which allows for mistakes, acceptance, and flexibility. 2) Stop Putting Food on a Naughty or Nice List. So you probably aren’t literally making a list like Santa, but it’s a norm in our society to put morality on food (good food vs. bad food, junk vs. healthy, etc.). Putting morality on food creates guilt. If you deprive yourself because you’re “trying to be good”, you are very likely to overindulge later. Overindulgence leads to guilt, self-loathing, and holiday stress. Instead of depriving yourself because you want to be “good”, allow yourself to indulge in holiday treats here and there. If you allow for yourself to consume foods in balance, you will not feel deprived, you will have a better relationship with food, and you will enjoy those holiday pies, cookies, and treats without feeling guilt and without overindulging. 3) Don’t be a Holiday-zilla In planning for the holidays, you might be thinking about the family dinners, the gifts, the events, the parties, the traditions, and so much more. The list of to-do’s can be endless. And you have envisioned how perfect and fabulous everything on the to-do list can be! Sure, someone else could take over some things, but no one can do things how you would do them, how you want them, or as good as you do it, right? However, if you take the holidays on all alone, you’re going to feel exhausted and resentful. Holiday stress will be inevitable. Instead, when people offer to help with something on one of your many lists, let them. If no one offers, ask your friends, family, and supports for help. Let go of control by delegating and know the holidays will be more fulfilling when everyone feels like they contributed. Additionally, you have free time to enjoy yourself, take breaks, and be practicing self-care. 4) Don’t Procrastinate. In contrast to controlling everything around the holidays, you might instead be overly disorganized during the holidays. You’re always thinking, “I’ll do it later”, but later arrives too late. As a result, you stay up all night making your famous turtle cheesecake and can’t enjoy the party the next day because you just want to go to bed. Procrastination leads to overwhelming holiday stress, especially because the result can often end in the additional disappointment of others. If waiting until the last minute is a holiday habit, then start planning out now. Instead of assuming you will have time later, specifically write events and the action steps you need to take for each event into a calendar or planner. This might include grocery shopping days for dinners and parties, shopping for gifts both online and in-person, creating and sending out holiday cards, attaining the perfect ugly sweater, etc. Ultimately, you may not be able to wipe out holiday stress altogether, and that’s okay because stress is a natural part of life. You can however, set yourself up with your best chance of being able to manage stress and have an enjoyable holiday season. Live your best holiday season yet! Suzanne Sanchez, LPC has a private practice in Portland, OR. She works with individuals and their supports in problem areas of life stress, anxiety, eating disorders, mom guilt, teen issues, and substance use. She provides individual and group counseling in addition to workshops. She also loves to create self-care, work-life balance, and connection opportunities for other therapists. She recognizes how easily burn-out occurs in the counseling profession, and she wants to help colleagues manage stress so they can be passionate, motivated, joyful therapists. She often goes on adventures with her two young kids and husband. On the weekends she hits up the living room floor for spontaneous dance parties which often include snacks and fun appetizers. Therapists can download her free guide, “5 Strategies for Preventing Burnout in Private Practice” at http://www.suzannesanchezcounseling.com/preventing-burnout/ .