Holidays are stressful for everyone. Has anyone in here recently gone through a life changing event? A divorce, a marriage, a move, a child leaving home, an adult child moving home, the loss of a loved one? If you’ve had any of those events happen within the past 6 months particularly, you have a whole lot of added stress that the rest of us don’t have before you even begin. Give yourself a break.
If you’re grieving a loss over the holidays and missing someone who used to be a big part of this, give yourself an even bigger break. Find a way to honor and include that person even though they cannot be with you. Acknowledge them by serving their favorite dish or following their favorite tradition. Look at photos or other objects that remind you of them and take the time to reflect on them. Allow yourself to be sad if that is how you feel.
If you’ve had a recent life-changing event, expectations of you may change accordingly. Or, on the other hand, they may not. Both situations can be very stressful. You may have recently retired and had some loss in income that goes with that — and may still be expected to spend a certain amount of money. Or you may be expected to travel with a new baby (talk about stressful!) when you hardly feel able to get through a “normal” day. Maybe you got a promotion, and you’re expected to bring more expensive gifts while you’re still trying to pay down debt you’ve accumulated. Even good changes in your circumstances can be very stressful. Being as prepared as possible to deal with all of this is a great idea.
The best way to control holiday stress, particularly around life-changing circumstances, is to set some boundaries. Take a good clear look at what you’ve committed to doing in all the areas of your life, and decide how much more you can or can’t do. You might even have to cancel a couple of those things. I’m giving you permission to set some boundaries on your time, energy, money, and space. I know, someone is going to call you a scrooge. But how much more of a scrooge will you be if you are entirely wiped out and resentful because you took on too much yet again? You can limit who can stay with you and for how long. You can limit alcohol consumption by buying only what you would like to drink or asking that there be no alcohol at all. You can ask for vegetarian options to be present at holiday meals. You can limit how many activities you agree to participate in and at what times. You can even limit who you will spend time with and how much time you plan to spend.
Go into these conversations with your limits in mind and don’t allow others to change your plans. You deserve to be able to ask to get your needs met, but don’t be surprised if others don’t agree. You may be able to come to a compromise, but if not, be sure that you know what you will do if your requests can’t be accommodated. Will you stay in a hotel? Will you bring your own meal? Will you leave early so you don’t have to be around when the drinking begins? You won’t be the most popular person on your block, but you’ll feel good that you got what you needed out of the holidays.
For more help setting boundaries well and, possibly, learning what your boundaries are, call Mantis Counseling and Coaching Services and set up a consultation. We’ll be happy to support you through the holidays and beyond.