‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year. . .’ - the opening lyrics to one of the most well-known Christmas songs. But what if this time of year is not that way for you? For many, the holiday season comes riddled with added obligations, extended family drama and financial stress. This year especially, amidst the backdrop of the pandemic, you may be wrestling with a number of different emotions and questions as we approach this holiday season. Below are five strategies to help make this holiday season one in which you can experience a more balanced sense of well-being.
1. Give Yourself Permission to ‘Change the Script’ this holiday.
All too often, we can find ourselves caught in a familiar refrain from holidays past. Fighting with our partner about where we will spend the holiday, stressing about a late holiday card, overspending when we swore that this year would be different and we would set a holiday budget. This holiday, write yourself a permission slip to ‘change the script’ and do things differently than you have historically. Maybe this is a year that you let go of the stress of coordinating the perfect holiday card, maybe you celebrate Christmas morning with your partner and pets as opposed to the chaotic coordination between extended family. Whatever that means for you, remember that nothing changes if nothing changes.
2. Use Mindfulness To Tap Into What’s Getting Kicked Up for You This Holiday.
The holidays bring up a myriad of different emotions. Perhaps you suffered a loss this year and this will be the first holiday without someone you loved, perhaps the cascade of social media posts with family are a reminder of the family you don’t have or something you continue to long for. Regardless, take time to tap into what gets kicked up. Practice acknowledging your emotions rather than suppressing them. There is no right way to feel during this time of year.
3. Set Boundaries.
Brene Brown encourages us to ‘Choose discomfort over resentment’. All too often we may find ourselves saying yes to things we would rather not or overcommitting. Choosing quality over quantity oftentimes means saying no and limiting commitments. This year especially, be clear and direct about what you are and are not comfortable with in regards to holiday obligations amidst the pandemic. Remember it is better to say ‘no’ and be uncomfortable than to say yes and feel resentment in the relationship.
4. Use the ‘3 P’s’ When You Feel Stuck
Martin Seligman, a researcher on positive psychology, offers what he termed ‘The 3 P’s’ to help boost resilience: Personalization, Permanence and Pervasiveness. This holiday season, be mindful that you aren’t personalizing things unnecessarily (Could your neighbor be less friendly than usual due to personal stressors as opposed to having an issue with you?), feeling that things are permanent (‘This quarantine will never end.’) or falling into a pervasive belief (‘I’m not as productive at work, which must mean I am not a good parent/partner/pet owner). Building an awareness of when you are falling into these thoughts patterns and gently reframing can help boost our resilience.
5. Get Clear About What’s Important (Set 3 Small, Achievable Goals)
Take a moment amidst the hustle and bustle to proactively decide what is important to you this season. Is it to have some time to rest and recharge from a difficult year? Is it to spend some uninterrupted time with your family? Maybe you have been fantasizing about organizing that closet which has been spilling over since 2015. Regardless of what it is, be intentional about choosing three specific things which are important to you this season and
making time for those things first, scheduling anything else around those things.
Diana Mahoney, LCSW is a psychotherapist specializing in women’s mental health across the lifespan. She obtained her Masters in Social Work from University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice and has been working to support women through both individual and group counseling using a mind, body and spirit connection. Diana appreciates walking alongside women in their wellness journey and is passionate about women experiencing greater peace in whatever season of life they find themselves in. Looking for more support from Diana? Visit the Next Era Therapy website where you can schedule a free 15 minute consultation call to see how her practice can support you further.