The halls are decked. The mistletoe is hung. ‘Tis the season to be jolly. Yet, the holidays can be stressful for some and coming off the past few years with its unique trials and tribulations, everyday holiday stressors may seem even more daunting. It will be the first time they’ve gathered in some time for others. So how do we avoid the stress? Maybe we listen to the experts. Thankfully we have a few of those here at the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Centerstone. They know a thing or two about stress and how to handle it.
For instance, therapist Steven Sellars. Sellars suggests that being ready for the holidays means having a game plan. “Pre-game typically stressful situations like family gatherings. Have a place or two planned out where you can get some quiet time, even just for two minutes, to ‘re-set’ yourself if things become too much.”
He also suggests preparing for challenging situations. If you know Aunt Bee will question how long you cooked the turkey, or Uncle Joe is going to bring up that topic you were hoping to avoid, work through how you may deal with the problem more productively than you have before. Think, “What can I do differently that’s going to make it easier on me in the moment?” Sellars says. “Coming up with solutions before you’re in the ‘heat of the moment is better than trying to do it when you’re not feeling your best.”
Assistant Director, Venee Hummel, agrees with Sellars and adds that having an escape plan is helpful, especially if you find yourself over-committing. “Holidays can quickly turn from fun to stressful when you take on too much. Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ to an invite if it would cause your schedule to burst at the seams.”
But what if you can’t avoid the festivities; because you’re the one hosting? Maybe you feel like everything needs to be perfect, from the cranberry sauce right down to the candles and tablecloth. Clinic Director, Julie Adams, says to stay flexible. “You can’t please everyone all the time,” she noted. “Try to host gatherings in a different way. Delegate a few tasks and don’t make the mistake of trying to do too much. The holidays are meant to be enjoyed.”
That may just be the bottom line. The holidays, no matter how stressful, or busy, or headache-inducing, are still filled with those warm fuzzy moments too. Remembering that can go a long way to keeping the season jolly. “Remember the meaning behind the moments of the holiday season,” Adams added. “Try refocusing your outlook and reaffirming your values and reasons for celebrating these occasions. Often you can create meaningful moments by loosening expectations and being open to the possibilities.”
Maybe even magical possibilities, ‘tis the season after all, and this year, maybe more than ever, we need that magic.
Cohen Military Family Clinic