The holiday season that is known to bring such laughter and cheer, may also be the same time of year that creates what’s known as the “holiday blues”. Seeing old family members and friends may bring up feelings of excitement or may bring up memories of disappointments.
Amongst the overwhelming feelings, the holiday season demands a lot from us, expectations being a major theme. Whether it’s spending money on your nieces and nephews, to the holiday parties that may bring you out of your normal routine, the expectations of living out the holiday season in a particular way are vast.
Below are some ways to navigate through the demands that December brings:
Don’t lose sight of your financial limitations.
I can’t even begin to tell you how many “on sale” emails I have in my inbox right now. Here is a reminder that could be helpful: just because it’s on sale does not mean you have to buy it. Words like “limited edition”, “limited stock available”, or “biggest sale ever”, create a craze in our mind that makes us feel the urge to hand over our credit card.
Budget! Make a list of the items you may want for yourself and/or for others. Prioritize this list. What is a necessity? Make sure you’re not putting yourself into debt just in the name of the holidays. If you can’t purchase gifts, brainstorm an alternative way to show your loved ones what they mean to you.
Stick to the routine that brings YOU happiness.
Pecan pie, apple pie, PUMPKIN PIE, OH MY! Although these foods, amongst many, bring comfort to us throughout this holiday season, they may also bring forward feelings of guilt. Think moderation. Allowing yourself to enjoy a piece may allow you to say to yourself “oh yum, that was good” without the “oh no, I feel like I’m going to be sick”. Instead of going ham (wink, wink), fill the day with foods that actually make you feel comfortable before that holiday party. Balance.
Alcohol can also bring you right out of your routine if not mindful about it. Even though it may “ease the pain” that the holiday season is bringing you, it can create a whole lot of pain if taken to an extended level. Instead of replacing pain for pain, think of how your own boundaries can be helpful. Will you now be able to get in that morning workout that you love? Get that sleep your body longs for? What opportunities are you creating for yourself by keeping your normal routine a part of the holiday season?
Boundaries build better relationships.
What a tongue twister! But, let’s face it, boundaries get a bad rep! They have a connotation that you’re being selfish and non-compassionate when you tell a loved one, “hey, I won’t be able to make it to your party”. However, they may not fully understand what you are honoring at the moment that boundary is being placed. Perhaps you’re saving yourself from being depleted. Maybe you’re trying to keep your normal routine so that you can maintain your goals. Not honoring the reason the boundary is being created can lead to feelings of resentment, which is actually counterproductive if you really think about it. Sticking to your boundary IS being compassionate towards the relationship.
A way to dodge the guilt that may come with placing boundaries is to remember that you are the one that fully understands what it means to you. Therefore, lead with empathy. Leading with, “I can understand the disappointment you may feel from me not showing up to the family breakfast”can have the other feeling like THEIR feelings were taken into consideration.
Spend some time alone.
Regardless of what the holiday season may mean to you, it’s important to take some time to reflect. December flies by, especially with the constant bombardment of the New Year coming up. You can create a moment of slowing things down by being by yourself to process. This may look like going for a walk to reflect on what feelings are being brought up in the midst of the holiday chaos, journaling to help you make sense of your thoughts and behavior, or even just spending some time with yourself.
Being good to yourself can help you stay aligned with who you are, and what you want this holiday season to be about. This is your holiday season too. So be kind to your mind. Reflect on the holiday expectations and demands, and see how boundaries can help you maintain a healthy mindset.
Dr. Claudia Caprio, LMHC