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  • Writer's pictureDena Lampert

Sometimes The Holidays Don't Feel Like The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

I don’t know if it’s just me, but this year flew by! It’s coming towards the end of November already and the holiday pressure is on. “Buy your gifts early because the children can’t do without,” “if you haven’t bought all your gifts by the end of November you’re in trouble,” “get everything prepared in advance to have the best Christmas ever”—this is all we hear in the lead up to the holidays. The holidays have become a competition on who can spend the most money, buy the best gifts, and cook the best meal. And with all the cooking, decorating, spending, visiting, and organizing, the holidays can seem more like trying to meet a high-pressure deadline than a vacation.


But is that what the holidays are really about?


You’ve heard this before but it bears repeating, as it feels like the true essence of the holiday season has been lost. The holidays have become a time for making connections with friends and family, reflecting on the past year, and focusing on the important things in life. I also think it bears mentioning that it is a significant religious holiday for the Christian community that is rarely talked about in the secular media. However, it seems that our focus goes to spending all our money on the most popular gifts of the year, attending the best parties, or creating a fairy tale experience for our children.


But it can also be a time that creates loneliness for some, and the dysfunction in families is never more obvious than during the holidays. The stress of the season can be debilitating, and for those who don’t have people to spend the holidays with, who live far away from family, and who struggle to deal with the increased social interaction, the holidays can seem like the farthest thing from the most wonderful time of the year.


So here are some tips on how to manage the stress of the holiday season.


Accept that it can be a difficult time of year


The first step towards dealing with a difficult situation is to accept how you are feeling. Acceptance is the key to coping and progression. If someone close to you has passed away recently, you can’t be with your loved ones this year, or you have difficult relationships with your family, it’s normal to feel sadness, stress, and frustration. It’s ok to feel that way and it’s important to express your feelings whether that be to cry, shout into a pillow, take some time out for yourself.


Remove the importance on material things


You might see advertisements that encourage you to spend hundreds of dollars on big expensive gifts for everyone and anyone you’ve ever met, but at the end of the day, the holidays are about so much more than the material things.


One of the best ways to shift your focus and reduce stress is to set a budget for your spending. By setting a budget you create boundaries for how much you’re going to spend, on what, and for who. It allows you to really nail down the specifics of where your money is going and will help you avoid those seemingly small impulse purchases that can add up far too quickly. There’s nothing worse than waking up the day after Christmas with no idea where all your money went. Remember, there are many ways to show love without overspending money.


Get honest with yourself about the real importance of the holidays for you


The holidays are different for everyone. For some the focus is on going to Church, for others, it’s about spending time with family. Figuring out the real importance of the season for you will help you better understand what aspects of the holidays are necessary, and which you can let go of.


For example, if going to Church is the most important part of the holidays for you, then maybe you’d decide to spend less money on gifts or have a smaller gathering of people. Whatever is important to you about the holidays, make that your primary focus—the rest is extra. And if for someone else, the importance of the holidays is to have a huge celebration, accept that as their choice, and stay true to yours. The key to a happier, more fulfilling holiday season is to make sure it aligns with your values and not someone else’s.


Carve out some time to relax and focus


One of the most effective yet often most overlooked ways to manage holiday stress is to take time out. That might be one month before Christmas day, or one hour after everyone’s arrived, it doesn’t matter. Taking time out for you to relax, re-focus, and enjoy the season is so important. It doesn’t matter if the food is taking a little longer to cook than expected, or if the tree is a little wonky, or if your brother is running a little late. Life isn’t perfect, and the holiday season doesn’t need to be either. The most important thing is that you enjoy yourself as much as you can and take time out to ensure that.


Say no


Saying no might be difficult but it’s one of the most important things you can do to reduce holiday stress. Saying no allows you to create boundaries. It allows you to prioritize the most important things, get rid of the things you don’t want to do, and have a more enjoyable holiday. We know saying no can be difficult, but being selective in what you choose to engage in during the holiday season puts you in control of your experience rather than having it dictated to you by others.


So among the holiday preparations, celebrations, and slight chaos, remember to look after yourself. Take that time out for self-care, don’t buy all those gifts if you don’t need to, and remember why the season is important for you.


All of us at Triangle Cognitive Therapy wish you a very happy holiday!


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