‘Tis the Season: Do the holidays = anxiety & stress for you?
The countdown is on: presents, decorating a tree, food, family, time off work, kids off school. Excitement for sure. But what’s that lurking in the underside? Stress, dread. A feeling of missing out, maybe a sense of ‘not doing it right’. Because let’s be honest, how can we get everything right, when standards are so darn high there is no ladder tall enough to reach them?
Look at any Pinterest board and tell me it’s possible to make 50 different types of cookies for your toddler’s pre-school Christmas party. Scroll through your IG feed and feel no despair over images of perfect bodies who eat said cookies and still look the same. Walk the aisles in the supermarket and be in control of all your shopping impulses when the eggnog, candy canes and turkey vats scream at you ‘Buy me for a perfect holiday’. And don’t even get me started on Christmas music blaring everywhere starting November. So of course there is anxiety and stress built into the season. Add a good dose of family dysfunction at the holiday dinner table, and we’re heading straight to crazy town.
Here’s the good news: it does not have to be that way.
First rule: You are allowed. Whatever you need, you are allowed.
This is one of my favourite questions I ask clients in session: ‘if this was your friend struggling, what would you say to them?’. Practice treating yourself how you would treat a friend. Show yourself the compassion you extend to others.
Do you need to not follow your family’s traditions or society’s expectations? You are allowed.
Do you need to stay away from political discussions or, on the contrary, to talk about your views? You are allowed.
Do you need a small gift or no gift at all? You are allowed.
You are you, and you need to care for yourself. There is no place you need to be, more than in comfort and peace with yourself.
Second rule: Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries.
Family can be our biggest support or biggest source of stress all at the same time. For some people, family is where trauma happened, so holidays, with their expectation of get-togethers and happy times, can be particularly hard. It is okay to set boundaries. Remember the first rule – whatever you need, you are allowed.
Boundaries are rules, guidelines you can set for yourself that would direct you to recognize what would be a safe and appropriate way for others to behave around you, and how you would respond if they violated those rules. Boundaries are about what you need and what is necessary for your mental health and wellbeing.
If you need to limit the time you spend with family, or have no contact at all, you are allowed. If you need to avoid sitting next to the sleazy family friend, you are allowed. If you need to let go of the expectation that they will change, or the desire to change them altogether, you are allowed. Whatever you need you are allowed.
Third rule: make your own rules
There is no manual for how things should be done during the holidays or any other day of the year. So go ahead, set your own rules and traditions, it will be fun! Take out and a movie on Christmas afternoon, ice cream while opening presents, a midnight bubble bath while waiting for Santa? You’re only limited by your imagination.
On a personal note, I am adopting the Icelandic tradition of spending Christmas Eve reading books. Which reminds me, I need to order some. One tradition that I am more than happy to respect, year after year, is buying myself a present.
If you are struggling during this season and need someone to talk to, do not hesitate to book a session with me at www.rethinkyourway.com or find me at the Proactive Pelvic Health Centre.