Managing Holiday Stress and Expectations

It’s the holiday season! Between parties, gifts, sweets, and treats, many of our clients are filled with more holiday dread than holiday cheer. Long to-do lists, family dynamics, and social expectations can transform a time of joy and laughter into one of doubt and misery. Our therapists put together a list of three ways to protect your mental health during the holiday season.

Set priorities.

Time is a precious commodity during the holidays. Rather than spreading yourself too thin playing Santa, prioritize those aspects of the season that are most important to you. You might forget someone on your gift list. Your decorations may be paltry compared to Macy’s or that Instagram influencer you follow. You might not hand address the Hanukkah cards you send out, and there will be gatherings that you can’t attend. Rather than focus on what you can’t do, relish in what you are able to enjoy. Maybe a holiday meal is your main event, or, perhaps, you have a treasured New Year’s Day tradition. Find what you love most about the holidays and focus your energy on that chosen experience. If you’re not a fan of Uncle Joe’s Seder, then don’t go. If decorating your front lawn feels like an insurmountable chore, skip it! The holiday season should bring joy, generosity, and love into our lives and the lives of those in our community. Trying to please everyone else will ultimately leave you feeling empty and tired. While you might be forced to wear matching sweaters for a family photo, you don’t have to work yourself to the physical, emotional, and financial bone just because of the calendar. Identify what you love about your chosen celebration and participate to the extent that leaves you feeling nourished and happy, not worn out and grumpy.

Be realistic.

Once you choose those aspects of the holiday season that you want to focus on, don’t stress about perfection. If you’re not Julia Child, don’t plan a 6-course dinner with Cornish hen and crème brûlée. Don’t attempt to mail 163 handmade Hanukkah cards if you only have an afternoon to devote to the task. Your dinner guests won’t care if the hummus is a little too lemony or you bought the pumpkin pie at Trader Joe’s. Aunty Muriel is happy as a clam to open a Hanukkah card you printed at Kinko’s. Gifts are about thoughtfulness and intention. Gatherings are about sharing time and a meal with those you love. Focus on the people we honor with our time and energy because what they really want is your attention and expressions of love.

Do something for others.

Most wintertime religious celebrations contain some form of giving. No matter your reason for celebrating, do something for someone else this season. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Donate to an Angel Tree or another nonprofit. See what local nursing homes are doing for residents. In giving of ourselves, we often receive the greatest gift. When we help those less fortunate than ourselves, the trivialities of matching gift wrap and coordinated place settings come into sharp relief.

If you feel you need a little extra help, our professional staff are here for you. Call to make a counseling appointment at 504.831.8475, or fill out a client intake form here.

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