As the old saying goes, it is officially the season to be jolly. The holidays are projected to be a time of cheer, peace, and coming together. Although this is what the holidays should be about, the hallmark look is typically a false expectation of what is experienced. The holidays and all their to-do’s come with an enormous amount of pressure that can lead to stress and mental health issues.
For nearly everyone the holidays hold a heavy weight of emotions. Whether we have experienced loss, battled our own struggles, helped others battle their struggles, reached peaks, or found valleys; the entire year of our emotions become present during the holiday season. The extra weight of the world lies on our shoulders, and stress can chisel through our psyche, triggering feelings that are less then jolly.
Being mindful of our emotions during the holidays can teach us a lot about ourselves and validate feelings that we might be trying to ignore. Where we tend to further cultivate our less then jolly feelings is in our repression of them. The image of the holidays being perfect holds us to feelings of shame and disappointment when we experience otherwise. Truth is, if you can relate, you are not alone. There is a place in which we can find solace in our holiday chaos. It is time to overcome the obstacles that keep us from joy. Below are 4 key factors in maintaining your mental health to feel jolly this season.
Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?
Stress is the powerful thief of our control. Stress can erode the mind and trigger many underlying emotions. The holiday and its presenting demands make it easy for stress to creep in. Our power lies in becoming aware of our stressors, not denying them. Effective stress management starts with identifying the sources. Stressors come in many different forms. We can face external demands (cooking, shopping, decorating) or we can face internal demands (expectations, belief’s). Take a few moments to reflect on your previous holiday experiences. Reflect on the good and the bad. Reflect on your emotions. Reflect on your behaviors; your actions and reactions. Become aware to your triggers. You will notice some things are happening around you while others happen within you.
The idea of reflecting on the past is to highlight stress inducing factors. We cannot escape the demands of the holiday season; however, we can learn to manage them better. Strategizing to manage environmental stressors can be as simple as planning head. Organization and clearly defined limits can set a different tone to our experiences. Internal stressors can be managed by reframing your thoughts and choosing a positive mindset. Relaxation techniques can also be helpful when we face negative emotions. Being aware of your stressors is like being aware of a stop sign. It’s a guiding factor to avoid any head on collision.
Santa Clause is Coming to town
Expectations are a root cause of discontent during the holidays. Our expectations for the holidays can be experienced in many ways and can become overwhelming this time of year. Expectations are pre-meditated demands that something should happen. When our expectations are not met, we fall into negative feelings of disappointment. During the holidays it is important to manage your expectations that you place on yourself and others. We always have an idea of how things should be. It’s time to question what we want vs what is possible. Expectations are reality vs theory. Expectations can be met when set in a rational clearly defined way. It is important to communicate with yourself on what you can do, and important to communicate with others on what you need.
Expectations can also come from the idolization of the hallmark experience. We could have everything yet feel like we have nothing when facing the thief of comparison. Remember to gauge your expectation to your own circumstances, not the circumstances of others. Most importantly remember to accept. We often know, but cannot accept, and this itself it more of a struggle than not knowing at all. When we accept our limitations, we can meet our expectations and decrease our stress. There is no better way to challenge our expectations than with rationality and honesty.
Let there be peace on earth
The holidays can bring families and friends together; however, it can also tear them apart. With stress and expectations conflict can spark. When we experience stress, we typically take it out on those closest to us. When our families don’t provide us with our holiday dreams come true, we can boil with resentment. Past issues with family members can also come forth during the holiday season. Conflict resolution is a mindset, and it begins with yours. When we are at peace with ourselves, we can be at peace with others. Self-care is the cure to healthy relationships. If a family member is causes conflict or stress, perhaps you can help them find peace. Whether you offer them a hand or come from a place of understanding you engage in achieving peace. Negative feelings towards others can cause us stress and effect our mental health. The holidays are a great time to create more love and more peace, both within and without.
A Holiday Miracle
After letting go of expectations and managing your stress you can look at the holiday season in a different light. Getting wrapped up in the chaos of the holidays can shift what the holidays are about. Stress can make us feel intitled. It is common to lose perspective, but perspective is crucial for good mental health. There is so much going on around us during the holiday season we overlook what is right in front of us, and within us. When we focus on what we have, we create an abundance of joy. When we share or gratitude with others, we find ourselves in perfect harmony.
Gratitude can be hard if your feet are off the ground. Take the time to acknowledge what you are grateful for this holiday season. This will help decrease your stress and re- align you with your values. Gratitude can help you be more patient with yourself and others. Being thankful can reduce the egotistical feelings that leave us restless. It can allow us to have greater willpower over ourselves and our obstacles during the holiday season. Being thankful for your health is a great way to make choices that support your wellbeing. When you relax into all that you are and all that you have, you will find happiness. Happiness is interchangeable for each of us, but it can be found right here in this moment.
The holidays are a time that can bring great joy to our hearts. They are a challenge indeed, but remember you are not alone. Let your self-care be your gift to yourself. Let your holidays be pleasurable. Let your resilience and gratitude increase during this time. Let all that you do (or don’t do) be done in love.