This time of year can bring out the best and the worst in us. With Thanksgiving this week, most of us will be traveling to visit family or hosting family in our homes. For those with healthy relationships, the holidays are one of the best times of the year. We enjoy the encouragement and strength we find in our parents, grandparents, siblings, children, and other relatives. We reflect with loved ones the joys and sorrows of the past year, as we are grateful for the time we have together.
Unfortunately, for others, the holidays are a stressful time full of anxiety and pain. Some feel overwhelmed with the expectations of loved ones. We feel pressure to create wonderful meal or tell others about how perfect our lives are with work, children, or school. Most of the time, we feel we cannot live the perfect life and meet these expectations. There is anxiety about saying and doing the right thing around family.
For other family members, the holidays remind us of painful memories. We are reminded of where we stand in our relationships. People think of the abuse or neglect they may have experienced or are reminded of the lack of relationship with those they love. If you find yourself dreading the coming weeks, I want to give you encouragement and help make your holiday season a little lighter. Here are a few helpful tips to bring a little more joy in.
- Focus on the positive over the negative. Research shows that people have stronger memories associated with painful, emotional experiences. It is easy to fixate on a particular memory or negative idea, to the point that we have a strong emotional relation. When you find yourself beginning to engage in negative thinking, make a choice to stop. Find something positive to focus on. If you are disappointed about your estranged relationship with your child, remember a time you did feel connected to your child or focus on another relationship where you feel you have a positive, parental role.
- Lower your expectations. Often the holidays bring high expectations and desires. We have the perfect idea of what activities we will do or the conversations we will have with loved ones. When expectations are high, we will more than likely be disappointed. Decide to lower your expectation and enjoy every moment, no matter how small it may seem. Go with the flow instead of expecting others to accommodate to your plan. Choose to enjoy this time rather than wish for something else.
- Take care of yourself. It is easy to get wrapped up into taking care of everyone else that we neglect to care for ourselves. No one wants to be around an exhausted family member who is running around completing tasks. Especially if you are hosting, it is easy to get overwhelmed and upset with all there is to do while we see others enjoying time together. Take time to stop what you are doing to enjoy your relationships. Take care of yourself so that you can care for others. The holidays are for you too.
These tips to do answer all our holiday problems, though I believe they will help. If you find yourself unable to follow this advice or still struggling with anxiety or your relationships, I encourage you to consider counseling. Through talking to a therapist, we are able to gain understand and set healthy boundaries in our lives. With help, we can unpack our negative experiences and find hope through the pain. If you still feel down or overwhelmed over the holidays, give us a call to find relief.
Whitney Owens, LPC, MA