The holidays can be a time of fun and celebration, but it’s not uncommon to find ourselves feeling down in the dumps, stressed; even depressed. These feelings and emotions are more common than most of us realize.
If you find yourself experiencing these uncomfortable feelings over the holidays, here are four tips that can help you deal with holiday stress and get back into the holiday spirit.
1. In dealing with holiday stress, keep your expectations realistic.
Unrealistically high expectations are the primary creator of the disappointment we experience during the holidays. The child inside of us gets excited and begins to use magical thinking to take our expectations far beyond the ability of reality to make them come true.
It’s fun to look forward to the holidays, just pay attention to your expectations. Just keep in mind the old adage… an expectation is often simply a disappointment waiting to happen.
2. Use the holidays as an opportunity to intentionally add value to the lives of others.
The holidays give us an opportunity to re-connect with family and friends. Before entering the holidays, make the decision to use your time with family members and friends to add value to their lives. Put them in your vision. Really “see” them.
A good way to “emotionally hold them” is by intentionally listening to them when they talk. Hold eye contact with them, affirm them, offer them encouragement, genuine empathy, and unconditional compassion. In other words, be kind. And most importantly, don’t hesitate to tell them how important and loved they are. People love to know that they are important… and loved.
If you find this difficult to do with some of the folks you will be spending time with this holiday… be sure to check out Tips # 3 and 4.
3. Stay awake when the high expectations of others result in disappointment and they begin to unconsciously project their disappointment onto you.
This is a very common problem around the holidays. The excitement of their high expectations can quickly turn into feelings of disappointment. It can cause them to withdraw, get ouchy, cranky, or become picky and critical. When this happens, it’s human nature for them to subtly and unconsciously project their negative feelings onto those around them.
If you find yourself getting down or antsy for no obvious reason, simply remind yourself that you may be unconsciously tapping into the feelings of those around you. Try not to take the unconscious projections of others personally. Simply reaffirm your intention to use Tip #2 and continue to cheerfully extend compassion and empathy to them.
4. Be very careful not to slide back into childhood roles.
It is almost impossible to be around family members without unconsciously sliding back into the family role that was assigned to you when you were a child. These roles can include being a caretaker, feeling responsible when others are stressed or upset, being the lost child or the invisible child, being the clumsy uncoordinated child, or most damaging role of all… having to be the perfect child.
When you can stay intentionally awake, and paying attention to this tendency we all have to regress back into our childhood roles, you’ll quickly become aware that these unconscious childhood roles are causing you to behave in emotionally weird and irrational ways. When you experience yourself acting or feeling “little”, simply remind yourself that you’re not that child, and make the conscious decision to reclaim your adult self. Gently show your family and friends, who you really are… your values, the meaning of your life, your dreams, your goals. Be clear about who you are today.
Be kind. When people start to share “funny” stories about you, stories that might be embarrassing or shaming, simply recognize they too are probably unconsciously slipping into the roles they were assigned in childhood. Smile, enjoy their stories, and reaffirm your intention to embrace Tip #2.
Dealing with holiday stress is difficult, but when you are able to burn through the emotional fog that can settle into holiday gatherings by keeping these four tips in mind——intentionally staying awake, conscious, and fully in the moment… you’ll find yourself having a much more enjoyable holiday experience.
As I try to remind readers each holiday season, don’t hesitate to step outside and take a short walk if you need to shake off the fog and reset your emotions. Family dynamics can be very challenging at times.
See you in the New Year!!