by Elizabeth Campbell, MS, LPC
The holidays are a great way to celebrate gratitude and spirituality and to connect with loved ones. They are also a time that can be emotionally difficult and stressful. There are many things that contribute to the difficulty of this season and also many ways to support yourself and thrive this holiday season.
The winter season is a time to slow down and turn inward. The holidays in our culture ask us to do the opposite. People tend to overbook themselves, stay up late, and engage in unhealthy habits. We can decrease our stress during this holiday season by maintaining a schedule that honors what our body and emotions need. It is also important to maintain healthy habits and practices that maintain grounding.
Because the holiday season is a time when we focus on friends and family, this time can be difficult for individuals that are isolated, in conflictual relationships, or have experienced a loss. Feelings of isolation can be exacerbated by the push to constantly connect during this season. There are times when silence and time alone are beneficial to an individual. This can also exacerbate depression or grief. It is up to the individual to determine what best serves them during this time of year. Generally, a balance is ideal. This can be difficult if those we are “supposed” to connect with this time of year can be difficult to be around. Prioritize connection with individuals that build you up and leave you feeling positive and nourished. And when planning to spend time with individuals that drain your energy, visualize boundaries or protection surrounding you prior to connecting to support your resilience. It is also important to maintain healthy boundaries within interactions with individuals that trigger you. Individuals that have experienced loss often experience intense feelings during the holiday season. For those that are going through a recent divorce, breakup, or transition within the family, this also applies. Lives in transition can be especially difficult during the holiday season because of the focus on traditions. It is important to maintain traditions that you choose, without trying to keep everything the same. Another significant practice is to honor your loss. This can be especially important if you have lost a loved one. This can be done with a candle, doing something that person loved, or partaking in a tradition that they enjoyed.
A final way that the holidays can be difficult is when we set our expectations very high. Every family and life has “stuff.” Few people survive a holiday without a kitchen conundrum, drunken relative, or spat between loved ones. Often individuals imagine a picture perfect holiday, which may heighten disappointment when life is closer to normal. Setting realistic expectations based on history may help to decrease stress in the upcoming holiday celebrations.
Holidays can be stressful for a myriad of reasons. The most important tool in setting yourself up for a healthy holiday season is awareness of the aforementioned things that exacerbate stress. To enjoy yourself this time of year, prepare yourself and honor what you need. Happy Holidays!
Elizabeth Campbell is a licensed professional counselor providing an empowerment and strength-based approach to support individuals in personal growth and change. She specializes in play therapy with children, family therapy, creative counseling for adolescents, and trauma-informed treatment. She utilizes an integrative, mindful approach to address the whole individual and promote healing and wellness. For more information or to schedule a session, please call Elizabeth at 610-757-8163 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org