Don’t let Stress Steal your Holiday

By Salley Schmid

Stress management is a topic that can go in many different directions.  All very useful and important directions in which to explore stress management.   In today’s Act Locally Waco Mental Health blog, I am going to turn your attention to stress management during the holidays with regard to relationships and traditions.

There are some easier to implement stress management tips around these topics and there are some not so easy to implement, but powerfully transformative stress management tips.  Here are a few of hopefully easier to implement ideas:

  • Live / spend / gift within your means shame free
  • Say no to make room for yes:
    • pick fewer traditions, events, and travel scenarios
    • Delegate or purchase pre-prepared when you can (not everything has to be homemade, give yourself a break)
    • Decide as a family what are the few most important traditions and values to express during the holidays and endeavor to meet those and if nothing else gets done it’s ok
    • Recruit help with anything you can – even if you need to pay for some of the help – everyone needs to earn a living and your mental, emotional health is important enough to invest in, hence paying for the help to be less burdened.

AAANNND for some that may be hard in the short run, but stress relieving and energy saving in the long run:  Practice healthy boundaries in relationships.  For example, when giving gifts that are within your financial means remember:

  • your gifts do not define you
  • others’ responses to your gifts do not define you
  • your values and alignment with your values is what defines you – your heart’s intention.

Letting go of feeling responsible for how others feel and think is an act of setting a healthy boundary.  The mindset of the above 3 points helps you do this letting go in order to live that healthy boundary.

Anticipation of the perfect holiday experience is a bit of a set up.  That’s a tall order to fill.  It is basically putting the holiday on a very high pedestal and it is a long fall from that pedestal.  One detail is off and the whole experience seems tainted.  Letting go of these high expectations and the anticipation of the perfect experience, makes room for flexibility, mistakes, forgiveness, and adaptability.  It paves the way for resilience and peace.

Discuss what roles people can play in the holiday experience – give people jobs.  Most individuals want to feel like they are making a meaningful contribution, not solely a recipient of your service.  Having a role or job equals feeling useful and meaningful, not having a role or job equals feeling like a burden and useless.  Invite everyone to feel useful and meaningful this holiday season.

If you have new family members – such as by marriage, invite the new members to share a tradition of their own with your family, get the details so that you can accommodate.  With a heart of gratitude, give up something of your own if necessary to make room for the new.

Be flexible.  As families grow dynamics of all sorts change.  Maybe a different calendar date needs to be set aside for a holiday to get everyone together.  The togetherness is what is important, not the number on a calendar.

Set boundaries in advance with behaviors or scenarios that have led to resentment or difficulty in the past.  For example, if you have a family member who typically gets hammered at the holidays and ends up creating a difficult scenario, in advance, invite that person to come sober and stay sober so that you can connect with that person rather than connecting with alcohol.  Invite them to refrain from coming if they don’t want to remain sober.  Let them know if they come and end up intoxicated, you will call for a ride for them and assist them in getting home without driving.

Another example is with pets.  If your holiday guests have in the past been known to bring their pets without getting permission or even knowing that they are unwelcome, in advance, set the boundary with them.  Ask them to make alternative arrangements for the pets, to bring crates, or stay at a pet friendly hotel . . . and express your gratitude for their presence without the pets.

Boundaries are not easy to set.  When setting them, others will not always receive them well, might accuse you of being mean or selfish, and might get mad at you. All of these responses are possible but not an indicator that you are in the wrong.  It is not your job to ensure everyone is pleased with your every move.  That is an impossible feat.  In the long run, setting healthy boundaries reduces stress, even if it might take a bit of time to get there.  However, it is less stressful than year after year dreading and then resentfully enduring the intolerable.

I wish you peace and joy this holiday season, hold on to what matters, relationships and love, not things, not food, not perfection.  Embrace life and family in all of its glorious messiness.  Hope for the best, but don’t expect it.  Rather, let the days unfold without trying to overly orchestrate each moment and experience.  Organically occurring memories will be the most meaningful.  Orchestrated moments tend to carry the memory of the stress they caused trying to orchestrate them. Let peace and joy be the theme.

salley-schmidSalley Schmid’s counseling practice specializes in helping people transition to a place of strength after experiencing any form of interpersonal trauma or pain, dissatisfaction in relationships, the loss of a sense of self. I work with individuals, families and parents from a family systems perspective. I have extensive experience working with individuals who have experienced psychological or emotional or sexual abuse or any interpersonal trauma, traumatic grief, divorce, blended family work, parenting challenges and attachment difficulties.  Salley Schmid, LMFT can be contacted at Enrichment Counseling at: 254-235-3500 or [email protected].




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