Holidays have been a time that we grew up with the image of a joyous time, time spent with family, and is almost picture perfect… all that holiday cheer, right? Holidays are not as they seem or how they are portrayed, it is not a Hallmark movie, or a social media post. You don’t stop being a person, experiencing feelings or thoughts, just because it is the holidays. You are a person and you still matter during this time and any time.
Everyone experiences the holidays differently, no matter what or how you celebrate, stress comes with it. Let us look at how to unwrap your holiday stress with a “package” that best fits you. You may connect with one, two or even just part of these “packages” below.
“I am going to be alone this holiday”
You may be alone or away from those you would want to spend this time with whether it is due to distance, work, or intentional. No matter the reason that you are flying solo this holiday, it is still stressful and hard.
What often happens is that you see the social media posts, watch the movies, or just know what the culture is like around celebrating the holidays. It can still leave you wanting part of that, part of that being connecting with others, being able to be thought of with a present.
Which present do you want to unwrap?
I want to do my own thing:
Take a moment, a slow deep breath, and visualize answers to these questions for yourself: What could be stressors I could experience even while doing my own thing? What do I want to look like?
Lean into those positives, you get to write how you want to spend your time. You can take this control back where earlier years you may not have had that. Make this time with yourself special; you can plan to do certain activities, travel somewhere new far or close, even enjoying foods you don’t always get to. As Tom Haverford would say “Treat yo self”.
I want to not be alone:
Take a moment, a slow deep breath, and visualize answers to these questions for yourself: What can be ways that you can connect with others? When you picture being around others, what does that look like?
This can be challenging to visualize, here are some things that could help to think about…
Are you able to connect with the ones you are not able to be with over video or on the phone?
What are ways to make this time special for you?
Are there local groups you can connect with during this time?
“I am going to be around family that causes me a lot of stress and anxiety”
Being around family is challenging as you may feel an obligation to be with them and spend your free time during the holidays with them. Let’s focus on what you can control versus what you cannot.
In either of these scenarios (“I will be traveling to see family'' or “Family will be coming to my place”), take a moment or two, a slow deep breath, and visualize the answer to this question for yourself: what can I do to take care of myself?
Things that can help during these times is identifying what you would want a break to look like. A break being that it is a separation from others to disconnect briefly and have a moment to yourself.
Does it look like… taking a walk outside, going to your car to “get something”, doing a task solo, even going to the bathroom or a room.
Another way to take care of yourself is trying to stick to routines you enjoy, for instance, if you enjoy going for a run in the morning, doing a face mask at night, journaling, getting adequate sleep / taking a nap, jamming out to songs that boost your mood, keep doing those things. It can be challenging, but these things are a part of your routine outside the holidays for a reason, you can still have time for yourself by putting yourself first.
Be intentional with your time and though it is easy to overcommit to things, incorporate down time and time to disconnect. The saying is true, we cannot pour from an empty cup, so we cannot keep giving and doing when all our energy is gone.
“I am going to meet my partner’s family”
Although an exciting step in the relationship, this is still a stressful experience. You may have racing thoughts and want to predict how the time is going to go with them. If only we all had a glass ball to predict things.
So what can be something you can do to prepare yourself?
Ask your significant other about their family. Find out what they are like and if they remind you of anyone in your life. If they do, how have you interacted with that “person” before?
What can be a good present you should bring or is there a custom / tradition you need to be aware of coming into this space?
These are good to know as you don’t want to bring wine to a gathering where everyone is in recovery.
Be sure to have things in place for you. For instance, have items available to be able to care for yourself, this can be your favorite song lined up to listen to whenever needed, traveling with your favorite pajamas (if staying with them or nearby).
Be sure to talk with your partner about what time looks like for both of you while visiting in terms of quality time and knowing each other's verbal and nonverbal cues.
Just a reminder from the beginning of this post, you don’t stop being a person, experiencing feelings or thoughts just because it is the holidays. You are a person and you still matter during this time and any time.
The situations above do not cover all possibilities and what everyone is exactly going through. This only highlight brief situations and stress.
Blog Disclaimer - These posts are not meant to treat, diagnose, or serve as a replacement for therapy. If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, please contact your local crisis center or dial 911. Here are more immediate resources as well.