Holiday Cheer and General Coping Strategies by Laurie Patrice, LPC,BCPC,CPCS

The holiday season can be full of joy.  It is also, for many, full of anxiety, sadness, and frustration.  If you are like most people, chances are you experience all of these feelings during the holiday season. For many of our clients at Perspectives, this year is particularly challenging. Advertisers set us up to believe that everyone is happy, smiling, and that families all get along during this time.  Let’s all remember that it is their job to sell us the dream that then helps them to sell us their products. The reality is that we are complex beings with varied experiences with family, friends, holidays, and perception of ourselves and others.  If we are alone at the holidays it can feel isolating, as if we don’t fit in with the rest of the smiling, happy people around us. When we gather over the holidays with family members who have different lifestyles or different world views this can feel alienating, disappointing, frustrating.  If we gather with family members with whom we have unresolved issues, this can open up old wounds.
Since most of us would like to enjoy the holiday season as much as possible, here are a few tips you may find helpful:

  1. Remember that there is no such thing as “perfect”.  This means no holiday will be perfect.  You can let go of the idea of perfect meals, perfect gifts, and perfect families… go ahead, try it on… if feels awesome once you get past all the old messages that try to keep you believing perfect exists... somewhere beyond your experience….   In releasing the concept of “perfect” you set yourself free from the shackles of the “never good enough” trap.
  2. Be realistic with your time.  Don’t take on more than is fun. Focus on what matters most and put your time and attention there. Don’t over schedule yourself or your family…over-scheduled people are not generally joyful people. 
  3. Treat yourself as kindly as you would a dear friend.  This is important everyday but it is especially important if you are spending the holidays alone or participating in stressful gatherings with friends or family.  Watch out for negative self talk and don’t let it take root.  Instead, focus on how you can speak to yourself and treat yourself with care.  Make a list for yourself of things that fill you up or help you feel good.  Then refer to the list when you need or want to give yourself some TLC.
  4. Pay attention to your own rhythm.  If you are an introvert, don’t try to get out to every gathering.  Don’t set yourself up to shop with the crowds.  Be mindful of your choices and give yourself permission to set limits. If you are an extrovert, set up your schedule so as to allow yourself time to enjoy all the people and activities around you. Make a list and prioritize so you make conscious choices.  If you live with others, be alert to the varying degrees of interaction and activity that works best not only for yourself but for those you love. This may be a time to openly discuss what everyone needs and wants and plan for how to navigate the holidays in a way that works for each of you.
  5. Look for the best in others and hold healthy boundaries.  We are all trying to do our best to find our way through the holidays.  We all want to believe the dream.  We all want the time to be happy.  Just like you, those around you may have a number of emotions swirling around. See the best in others and be kind.  That being said, if you are in a situation that feels abusive or intrusive, give yourself permission to remove yourself from the situation or to firmly and kindly let others know that you are not willing to be treated in a way that feels bad or uncomfortable.  As is always the case, if you set a boundary and hold it before your anger escalates you are much more likely to set and hold the boundary in a respectful manner.
  6. Get outside of yourself.  One of the best ways to feel happy in general and particularly during the holidays is to take your focus outside of yourself for a bit.  Look at ways you can be kind and helpful to others.  Our brains are wired for altruism.  When we engage in kind and generous acts it elevates our mood and increases our sense of connection to others. Set up a plan for yourself or with friends and family for ways you can spread loving kindness.  

Wishing everyone a Happy, Healthy Holiday Season!