Updated: Nov 12, 2020
While many people look forward to the holidays and all of the enjoyable activities that can come with this time of year, there are a good number of us that can struggle through this season. These struggles can come at the impact of many different variables. In this article, we will focus on two of the more common situations that can create stress and affect our perception of the holidays.
Loss of Relationships
With the holiday season being so family/friend oriented, those of us that have experienced some type of loss of relationship, can impact the way that we invite this time of year. These losses can come through death, divorce, or estrangement in any relationship that was important to us. Having lost a couple of family members over the last year, and also moving away from a core family and social network, I personally recognize the simultaneous pain, and joy, that can be experienced at times that you would normally be with your loved ones.
One of the things that helps me deal with these times, is to think about how you would want your loved ones to experience the holidays without you. Would you want them to let the pain of your absence lead to a sorrow-filled and dark time during these periods. Sometimes, the idea that our loved ones would want us to carry on as our “best” self, especially in times of pain, can be the emotional motivation we need to adjust perspective and focus on the good and not the bad; appreciate what we have, and not what we don’t. We can do this by celebrating past relationships, as well as our current ones. This can sometimes be difficult, given the memories and traditions associated with family and the holidays.
It is important to remember that creating NEW memories and traditions, is NOT doing a disservice to those we are no longer with.
In fact, we do our current, and past, relationships a disservice by holding ourselves emotionally hostage to the pain of yesterday. If we can attempt to switch our belief about the benefit we are creating by “shutting down” during the holidays, we have a good chance at developing a more accurate beneficial response.
The second variable that can make the holidays stressful, is one that is constructed more by societal norms, yet has internal processing aspects that give us a place to start a correction. How many times has someone told you that they bought you a gift, and you had not even considered them in your list of “giftees”? Now, do you have to buy them a gift? How much stress is created trying to raise the money to buy everyone that you care about a gift? How difficult can it be to get to see every family member for the holidays, especially if you are in a relationship and have two sets of families to visit? Can you afford to buy gifts, expend travel costs, and take time off of work? If you don’t, how upset will people be?
These are all questions that get asked over the holiday season!
Fortunately, there is one exercise that we can practice during the holidays, that is one of the most important tools for long-term mental health, and can (SHOULD) be utilized in our everyday lives; SETTING HEALTHY BOUNDARIES.
During the holiday season especially, it is important to set realistic expectations of what you can accomplish. Try not to associate “what you can do”, with “how you feel about someone”! I want to buy my daughter a car. If I financially cannot, does that mean I don’t care about her? I want to fly to Korea to visit a family member for the holidays. If I cannot, does that mean I don’t care? The idea is to set your expectations and boundaries, to a place that keeps you from being overextended, overwhelmed, and emotionally exhausted. Your loved ones will understand, and IF they don’t, it is important to remember that you set those boundaries according to what YOU need, so there is a good chance that not EVERYONE will receive it the same. As we have ZERO control over other people’s happiness, it does not benefit us to compromise our happiness, in attempts to appease others.
To learn more about adjusting perspective around the holidays, and setting healthy boundaries and realistic expectations, work with a therapist or life coach to help you develop those skills.
We here at Anumi wish you a HAPPY HOLIDAYS,
and hope your new year is one filled with growth!