Coping During the Holidays

The holidays are quickly approaching.   We can find enjoyment and meaning during the holidays by connecting to our faith, spending time with family, and taking part in festive activities.  However, the pressure to create a special holiday experience for ourselves and others can cause stress and tension.  It is important to actively make choices to create a holiday season that is grounded in meaning and joy, rather than obligations and stress.  Keeping the following tips in mind can help you decrease your stress and find more meaning in the holiday season.

1)      Ground yourself in your values

Determine what you truly value about the holiday season.  Whatever your values, bring yourself back to them when making choices about the holidays.  If your values are clear and you stay connected to them, the holidays will feel more meaningful.  

2)      Be flexible with traditions

Forcing traditions when they no longer fit can create tension and disappointment. Adjust your expectations to reflect your current life circumstances.  All traditions started with a new idea so be open to new activities.

3)      Acknowledge losses

The holidays often highlight losses experienced through death, divorce or distance.  Building in ways to acknowledge your losses can be helpful. This active mourning is necessary in the healing process and will help you cope during the season.  If you anticipate feeling isolated or lonely, determine how you can create connection instead by planning gatherings or activities with others.  With a little thought and creativity, you can also create connection with family and friends who live far away.

4)      Recognize you have choices 

It is important to remember that how we participate in the holidays is a CHOICE.  It’s easy to go on autopilot and do things we feel obligated to do even though it doesn’t hold meaning and pleasure. So, take the time to reflect on which activities you want to continue and which you prefer to let go.  There will always be some obligations we have to keep, but by making conscious choices these obligations can be minimized.

5)      Talk with others about your expectations and wishes

Initiating a conversation with family members, friends or co-workers about your expectations and wishes is important.  If you want to make a change, an early discussion with others allows them to process and adjust to the change rather than build up expectations.  

By clarifying your values and wishes and pro-actively communicating with others, your holiday season can be more pleasurable.  I hope these tips help you take charge in creating a holiday season that is meaningful and enjoyable to you.