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  • Writer's pictureDayna Sharp, LCSW

Surviving the Holiday Season

It's that time of year again. The weather is getting colder, school is out for the holidays, family dinners prevail and people from our past are suddenly back in town. The expectation is that the holidays are supposed to be a magical, joy-filled time of the year. But in my decade of working as a therapist, I have learned that the holiday season can be a super stressful time of year for just about everyone.

Stress anxiety during holidays
Family gatherings aren't always so joyous...

Maybe it's simply the sheer volume of tasks and hard deadlines.

Perhaps its the financial obligations.

It could be the political discourse at the dinner table.

Sometimes its a divorce that colors the holiday schedule and arrangements.

Maybe it's that feelings like you're a child again, sitting at your parents' table. "Darling, are you going to eat a second helping of pumpkin pie? I thought you were on a diet...".

Of course, it could be that the kids aren't in school! What are we going to do with them all day for the next week?


Getting Through with Grace

Plan Ahead. Whenever possible, make your plans ahead of time, so you're not feeling the pressure of deadlines. Pre-planning can also help you financially, so that you have more time to get everything you need.

Create a Schedule. This goes right along with planning. When you make a schedule for yourself, you can take things one step at a time. Rather than looking at the entire mountain you're about to climb, just focus on one step. This can drastically reduce your experience of stress and anxiety. A schedule can also help your kids adapt to time at home and transitions over the break.

Set Boundaries. Make sure that schedule in time for yourself. Away from the kids. Away from the family. If you are expecting a family dinner to be especially difficult, set a time limit for yourself. Make an appearance, carry yourself with dignity, and exit gracefully.

Keep it Real. If you're reading this post, you're probably a grown up now. Do not forget this at the dinner table. It can be a common experience to feel like we're kids again when we're with our family--but we're not. And we can't forget it. If someone in our family is being critical or rude, remember--it's about them, not about you. If you can, try to find empathy and compassion for them. If they are being verbally or emotionally abusive, follow up on setting healthy boundaries for yourself. Walk away, or take your graceful exit.

Practice Mindfulness. Deep breaths can help you through. Develop a mantra and repeat it to yourself as often as you need. I like the Five Principles of Reiki, but feel free to make your own.

Show Up Prepared. Chances are you have some ideas about the traps that lie ahead at your family gathering. What are hot topics, or how do your family members push your buttons? Consider what is likely to come up, and make sure you are prepared with a response. Again, know your limits and set your boundaries. Ensuring you're not caught off guard keeps you in the adult position, and can help you to feel more confident and calm.

Reward Yourself. This goes hand in hand with making time for yourself. If you are expecting a Thanksgiving Dinner to be difficult, make sure you follow it with something enjoyable. Even if it's a bath or aromatherapy before bed.

Life--and relationships-- can be complicated. There are going to moments that are hard, that hurt but there will also be moments that are peaceful and joyous. The same is true with the holiday season. Take solace in your moments of joy. Find positive connections where you can. Creating Space Counseling and Wellness is grateful to be part of your support system!


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