High Expectations Around The Holidays

Holidays are a time for enjoyment but also a stressful time for many. Our counselors often see increased stress, anxiety and depression around the holidays. There is the stress that results from all the positive activities involved – buying gifts, preparing to entertain. You might call this “good stress.” Happy stress. There is no sadness about it. Yet running around trying to take care of everything, sometimes we just forget to breathe. Of course we can’t help but breathe a little, but that shallow breathing doesn’t allow enough oxygen in and can often lead to anxiety. So take a deep breath, take another few. Think about how lucky you are to live safely in this affluent country of ours, with a warm house and warm clothes, flatscreen tv’s and smart phones, so many things you don’t absolutely need, and yet more money left to spend on gifts. Think about how lucky you are to have family and friends to cook and buy gifts for. Take your time, do your best and no more.

If you are not enjoying most of your holiday-related activities, it means that you are thinking about it all wrong. Approach the holidays with calm, positivity and self-acceptance.

Winter weather can bring on seasonal affective disorder and depressive, negative thoughts. Be careful not to judge yourself too harshly, not to set unreasonable expectations for yourself. Do what you reasonably can, no more. And take care of yourself, take a yoga class or exercise. Too much drinking or eating will disrupt your healthy mental outlook.

Along with self-acceptance, you’ll do well to approach those around you – family members, friends and co-workers – with acceptance and understanding. We are all imperfect human beings, all works in progress. Forgive those around you for their imperfections, and your new attitude may give them a chance to improve. Even if they don’t, know that you don’t need people to be as you would like them to be. It would be nice, but you can be okay even so. Take a deep breath and enjoy what you have.
There is sadness around the holidays, for those who feel lonely, disconnected. Maybe far away from home, maybe having lost a loved one. We have all been there at some point. Expectations are higher around the holidays. Some view their social situation around the holidays as a test of how adequate a person they are, how adequate their life is. Not having a holiday celebration to go to, not having a loved one, makes us feel that we are not okay, not acceptable. This is of course never true, as no one is unacceptable. Circumstances don’t determine one’s worth. On the other hand, finding ourselves lonely at the holidays may be a sign that it’s time to reach out more. There is always a way to improve things, even if it may take some time.

If you are lucky to be dealing with the positive stresses of the holiday season, keep your eyes open for those around you who might need some help getting into the holiday spirit. Very few people alone at this time would truly choose their solitude. So reach out, include if you can. Resolve is here to help sort through the difficulties and guide towards happier days.