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Holiday Season is Among Us: How to Cope When the Holiday Cheer Isn't so Cheerful

The holidays are officially here and, for some of us, with it comes great food, traditions and holiday cheer. However, for others of us the holidays bring a new level of stress, anxiety, sadness and grief. Whether it be conflict with family, the loss of a loved one or a major life change the holidays can remind us what once was, but is not now. So here are some ways to manage the holiday stress and soak in as much holiday cheer as you can.

Set boundaries

The holidays are a wonderful time that can sweep even the Grinch-iest of us away. However, when we get too swept up we can find ourselves agreeing to things we normally wouldn't due to the pressure of loved ones, traditions and societal expectations. So set boundaries for yourself. This includes physical, emotional and financial boundaries. If spending a week with the family causes you high levels of anxiety then find a compromise. People who love you may be disappointed, but will understand and you be able to bring the best version of you to the family gathering due to decreased anxiety. Set boundaries around gifts. As a culture we get caught up in giving and receiving gifts, but this isn't really what the holidays are all about. Set a limit on how much will be spent on gifts, agree upon a limit with loved ones, make homemade gifts -- which for the record, can sometimes mean way more -- or do a gag or small gifts exchange. Get creative with how you spread holiday cheer with all who are near! Your emotions and wallet will thank you later.

Take a break

Families are wonderful aren't they! We get to spend time with those who we don't see nearly as often as we'd like. We are reminded why we love our family members and why we tolerate others. If you have loved ones who cause you to feel overwhelmed with negative emotions then schedule in times to take a break. This can be by walking your dog, talking individually with the loved ones you do enjoy, taking a nap and, when desperate, going to the bathroom -- I promise no one will bother you there or ask questions as to what you were doing. So brainstorm ways to take breaks in the moment and go prepared to take these breaks at your holiday events. With your breaks planned you'll be better able to manage those difficult emotions and make the most of the holiday celebrations.

Cut yourself a break

Repeat after me. I do not have to be perfect. I do not have to have the Hallmark, picture perfect decorations, foods, gifts and so on. Repeat as necessary. The pressure of having the perfect holiday decor, party, food, gifts and so on can be overwhelming to say the least. We are surrounded by social media posts of the perfectly decorated home and movies with the picture perfect holiday feast. But these are not a reality for the vast majority of people. So cut yourself a mental break and allow yourself to not have it all together this holiday season. Trust me, most of us don't anyway.

Honor your loved one

For those of you celebrating the holiday season without a much treasured loved one, first and foremost, I am sorry for your loss. Whether your loved one has just passed or has been gone for years, the holidays can stir up feelings of grief and loss. My recommendation is to honor those feelings by first recognizing they are there. Likely, they are present to remind you how special that loved one is to you still. So find a way to honor them this holiday season. This can be done through enjoying their favorite meal, preparing their trademark dish, sharing favorite memories, decorating an ornament in their memory, visiting their gravesite and the list goes on and on. Our loved ones play a very special role in our lives and all should be honored this holiday season.

Practice Gratitude

In the fast pace chaos that the holidays can bring we often forget what the true meaning of them is in the first place. So take a moment to slow things down by reminding yourself of all the things you have to be grateful for this holiday season. In fact, make a list! Write down all the things you are grateful for or excited about in your life. Even when all feels lost there is likely one thing we can be grateful for no matter how big or how small. This can be something as seemingly small as sunshine on a cold snowy day or that you were able to get out of bed before noon. With gratitude there is nothing too small or too big to be grateful for. Life is filled with wonderful, tiny moments and sometimes when we take a step back we realize there is more to be grateful for than we expected.

For those who feel they need a little extra help getting through the holidays, you're not alone!! Reach out to family and friends for support and seek professional help as needed. Check out my blog post on finding a good therapist for you. You can check out Psychology Today to find a therapist in your area. If you're in the Quad Cities area feel free to message or call to set up an appointment at The M.A.D. Therapy today. I hope that your holiday season is filled with self-love, self-care and, of course, holiday cheer!