Written by Dr. Eric Perry
Image Credit: Pixabay
The holiday season is upon us. Everywhere I look I am greeted with reminders that Christmas is around the corner. I have to admit I love the look and smell of a douglas fir completely decorated with colorful and bright ornaments. It brings back wonderful childhood memories. To some of us, the holidays are a dreaded time of year. The bombardment of constant reminders may actually cause anxiety as we look forward to forced family fun time. Family get-togethers may bring flashbacks of past painful interactions.
Of course, we love our relatives but perhaps we also believe the expression “Distance makes the heart grow fonder.” Having to interact with family, during the holiday season, may feel like you are traveling back in time, to a place where you had no say and personal boundaries were nonexistent. The holidays can be stressful, therefore it is important to set the intention that this holiday season will be different. Use this opportunity for growth. Here are some suggestions to help you through the holidays.
1. Practice setting boundaries
The holidays are a great time to practice setting healthy personal boundaries. It is the perfect setting to speak up and be heard. It is also important to point out that you have no obligation to participate in any holiday event. Allow yourself to not participate without judging yourself.
2. Practice being okay with uncomfortable emotions
During the holidays you may experience uncomfortable emotions that you may not be able to immediately process. It is important to be able to sit with these uncomfortable feelings and avoid switching on the autopilot. By avoiding experiencing discomfort you also tend to avoid anything great in life. If you falter don’t be too hard on yourself. If there is one thing about life, it is that there are always more than enough uncomfortable moments to experience.
3. Create no drama
Even though I recommend that the holiday season is a great time to practice setting boundaries I am not suggesting that you use the opportunity to create an unpleasant environment for all. If someone is disrespectful to you, politely ask to speak to them in private. You are more likely to get your point across if you deliver your message in a calm and respectful manner.
4. Plan your exit
If you do attend your family gathering allow yourself to leave early. It is best to leave on a good note than to make a hasty exit in anger or frustration.
5. Make new memories
Perhaps it is time you start diluting some of the bad memories you have about the holidays by making new positive memories. It’s very easy for us to bring up bad memories when we don’t have anything positive to reflect on.
6. Reframe how you feel about the holidays
It is important to remember to be grateful for our family. Many of us have experienced death and illness this past year and are mourning the loss of a loved one or of our health. Perhaps if we truly realized how quickly life can change it would allow us to be more tolerant of our loved ones. By learning to respect one another’s boundaries we can then enjoy more quality time with the people we love.
I would love to hear how you feel about the holiday season and what do you do to cope with the stress of the holidays? I also want to take the opportunity to wish all of you and your families a very happy and healthy holiday season. From my family to yours I wish you well.
The thoughts expressed in this blog post are my own and are not meant to create a therapeutic relationship with the reader. This blog does not replace or substitute the help of a mental health professional. Please note, I am unable to answer your specific mental health questions as I am not fully aware of all of the circumstances.
Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology
M.A. in Clinical Psychology
B.A. in Psychology
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