Is it Time to Deck the Halls?: Mental health & the Holidays
The holiday season is upon us, and whether you dread it or not, it’s approaching. There is plenty of hustle and bustle when it comes to making sure you have the recipes, food preparation, making time and space for family or friends to come in to celebrate, and making sure the gifts are wrapped.
However, holidays are hard for everyone and those who have experienced trauma can feel like they are weaving around family members or shoving holiday spirit down their throat while dealing with anxiety and depression. I thought I’d share some insight and tips for the holidays to prioritize you over the upcoming weeks.
Nobody can get under our skin as our family can. For several of my clients, family is a significant topic brought into sessions. It isn’t always the case for everyone, but many struggles with family relationships. Families are full of different individuals who may be manipulative, have passive-aggressive behaviors, nitpick amongst each other, have addictions, sometimes physical altercations may arise, uncomfortable conversations, the grief of those no longer present, and more. So what can we do to avoid uncomfortable topics with Uncle Jim or passive-aggressive behaviors from parents?
Here are some tips to ensure that YOU can enjoy your holidays without the chaos that may come with dealing with dysfunctional relatives or missing those who you lost:
Manage Your Expectations.
We expect things from people that we expect of ourselves and that is how we can get disappointed. Try to be okay with accepting that things will come to fruition as they do, but it may not be how we pictured. With this in mind, confidence is key is knowing that you can handle what may come your way instead of viewing your relative’s response to a present or comment about your green bean casserole as a disaster, remember you cannot change their standards of what they expect but you can control what you expect.
Check-in with yourself and what you expect of yourself and what you can handle. If you want everything to be like a Hallmark movie, then you will be exhausted and not enjoy your holiday. You may want to see all the family and friends, cook all the wonderful dishes, and decorate your home to the max, but is that a reasonable expectation for yourself? The holiday stress takes away your presence in the room and you will not be you.
Ask for Help.
Holidays can be filled with so much chaos and overwhelming, but in order to take care of tasks or yourself, don’t forget to ask for help! Sometimes our headspace is not joyous at this time and we need someone to be available or listen when we are anxious, stressed, or depressed. You may not want to ask for help, because you are “the helper” but those who cherish you are usually willing to help you and be your support through this time.
Manage Uncomfortable Conversations.
You don’t have to attend every argument or uncomfortable conversation at holiday celebrations. These areas may be inevitable at the holiday celebration, but if you concentrate on where you want to spend your time, to who you give your energy, manage your expectations of others and yourself and practice genuine communication and boundaries with loved ones, you are doing well!
There will be taboo discussion topics like religion, politics, what Aunt Mary thinks of you not having kids yet, medical conditions, etc. but you can lay the groundwork for your boundaries and train people where your lines are. Options for you in these situations can be to set a boundary, ignore engaging in the topic by rerouting or remove yourself from the area.
Implement Self Care.
We are human and mess up sometimes, give yourself some grace. Sometimes holidays remind us of who is missing and who should be here, whether by them choosing to not be there or passing away. We may not act how others want us to but YOU know your limitations on what you can do and know what you enjoy to take care of where you are at. Practicing self-care by getting some needed rest, not overscheduling to people please, reading a book or watching a movie for fun, enjoying games, or making cookies! Make time for yourself in the holiday season, because we sometimes forget to do that and it’s over in a flash.
As the holiday season approaches and you see all of the turkeys at the market, picturesque Christmas trees, and everything in between, remember to consider these tips on how you spend your time and energy so that you are present and enjoying the celebrations.
By: Alexia Eller, LMSW
And if you are interested in learning more about therapy services and how a trained therapist may be able to equip you with skills to manage anxiety, depression, trauma, addiction, and more this holiday season, we are here to help! Let our team partner with you in reaching new levels of health this holiday season and into the new year. We have online therapy services available as well as in-person therapy options at our Arlington, TX-based therapy office.