It’s November! Everyone knows that means the holidays are right around the corner. While this time of year can be filled with happiness, excitement, and surprises, it can also be riddled with stress and grief. This year in particular may bring its own unique challenges with changes in traditions and gatherings due to the pandemic. It is vital that we pay attention to our mental and emotional health as we navigate this season!
Family gatherings can be the source of significant stress for many throughout the holidays. If you know this is the case for you, you can take some steps to make things go a little more smoothly. First, examine your expectations. Are they realistic and reasonable? Try not to expect things to go perfectly and put too much pressure on yourself to make sure everyone is happy. Then, decide what your boundaries and limits are. You may feel obligated to attend every event, fulfill every request, and not disappoint anyone, but you will be much better off if you are able to balance your priorities and not overwhelm yourself. It is also ok to limit your time or even cut ties if necessary with unhealthy or toxic family members!
Financial strain is another issue for many. We all want to grant our children’s wishes and watch their eyes light up as they open the best gifts! But what I’ve learned over the years is that children remember and cherish the memories and quality time with family and friends. You can make their holidays magical without overspending and creating debt for your family. Get creative and plan some fun family activities and get your children involved with volunteering and/or giving to others! This will help redirect their hearts from the materialistic aspects to the blessing of servitude! It is also a good lesson for kids to learn that they don’t always get everything they want!
Grief and life transitions can also add a heaviness to the holiday season. You may have lost a loved one and are preparing to get through your first Christmas without them. Or maybe you have had to adjust to your family changing as children get married, move away or start their own traditions. You may be struggling with separation or divorce and worrying about how to share the holidays. These situations can bring about many mixed feelings. Don’t try to ignore what you are experiencing emotionally. Acknowledge your grief, sadness, anxiety, anger and frustration along with your happiness, relief and hopefulness. Yes, it is possible to have positive and negative feelings at the same time! Find a trusted friend, family member, pastor, or counselor to process your thoughts and feelings with. Just the act of sharing with someone can help lift the burden you are carrying. On the flip side, if someone decides to confide in you, you don’t have to try to fix the problem or have all of the answers. Most of the time, just being there for support is the best way you can help!
You also have a choice when things aren’t going the way you would like. You can dwell on everything that is wrong and that you cannot control, or you can decide what you can control or change to make the best of the situation. Maybe you can start a new tradition that honors a lost loved one or alter old traditions to fit better with a new stage of life.
And finally, the best advice I can give as we go into the Holiday Season is…practice giving grace and showing love to others even when they may not be acting very lovable. Understand that people may be going through things that you don’t know about or understand. Often times, we take things very personally that may not have anything to do with us! Showing love and kindness can go a long way to change how people are acting and feeling!
If you are needing some extra support during the holiday season, call our office at 318-450-8719 to set up an appointment for counseling.