The holidays are upon us! Can you believe it? Here in Old Saybrook and on the Connecticut shoreline boats are sadly being pulled from the water to await next season, but the leaves are stunning, the steam train is ready for Santa, and we’re all excited for the torch light parade… And you can’t wait for all the joy and cheer of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, right?
As a therapist, I know that most of our hearts swell with anticipated joy and excitement when we feel the holiday season… and that our hearts also start pounding and our bodies swell with anxiety as we anticipate the demands and expectations that come along with it.
Here are my top tips to help you navigate the holiday season WITHOUT losing your mind:
1. Advance plan: Getting caught off guard, or being vague about what to expect from the coming weeks, can be a breeding ground for anxiety. Anticipate as many events, parties, and holiday dinners you’ll be invited to or expected to attend, including any holiday travel dates. Add them to your Google calendar and invite your spouse and any other family members involved, or if you’re more visual tack up a paper calendar somewhere everyone can see and make sure it stays updated.
2. Say No: Feeling the pressure to do everything for everyone, and attend all events, is a major player in what contributes to holiday stress. Divvy the shopping list for your kids with your spouse. Pare down on presents and do a Secret-Santa with your extended family instead. Accept only the party invitations you where you imagine yourself having a truly great time and catching up with good friends or neighbors!
3. Protect your need to relax: Personal wellness is the first thing to go out the window when you’ve got 3 pies to bake, a work cookie exchange, and presents to get for every last person you know…. But what did you do to take care of yourself BEFORE the holidays hit? Schedule that in to your day now and hold onto it. If you don’t guard your wellness, nobody will.
4. Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries: Be honest with yourself about the people and things that trigger your maximum anxiety during this season. And then set boundaries around them! Ask your spouse to support you in maintaining or reinforcing those boundaries. It’s amazing how far a little teamwork can go. When you get caught off guard by the people and things that trigger you during the holidays, you’re bound to lose it. Anticipate the areas of this season that might bring the most stress for you and create a plan for avoiding, minimizing, or maintaining a better balance around those aspects.
While you likely already intuitively KNOW these top tips I’ve shared with you, my gentle challenge to you is to actually use them. You can do it! The difference between knowing what would help you and actually FEELING better is taking new action.
Usually, we approach the holidays the same way every year (partially because they creep up so fast, and partially because humans are creatures of habit!), then wonder why it all got away from us or unraveled. Take charge of how YOU want to experience this holiday season, and give yourself the permission to create the framework and expectations that will support your happiness and mental health. If you need help getting in charge of your stress and anxiety, call me at 860-339-6515 so we can come up with a plan for getting you on track to a more fulfilling and meaningful life!
Lauren L. Drago, MSEd, LMHC, LPC is a women's therapist and counselor, providing individual counseling in Old Saybrook, CT and online in greater CT, NY & PA. She specializes in working with smart, insightful and capable women to overcome stress, anxiety, loss of identity, self-limiting beliefs, perfectionism, marriage strain, and the pressure of "trying to do it all." Lauren has a passion for helping others to achieve the happy, fulfilling, productive, and meaningful life they deserve. She believes that every woman can and should live out her personal definition of her own best life. Call (860) 339-6515 to schedule your free initial consultation.