Your guide for when December doesn’t feel like the most wonderful time of the year…
It’s the so-called, “most wonderful time of the year.” That may (or may not) look like festive parties, gatherings with friends and family, and cozy nights by the fire. Even though there may be many special little traditions and fun evenings during this time of year, December is sometimes tough to get through when the holiday blues take their toll.
Our culture and society places a lot of importance on the holidays. Because of that, we want it to feel special, filled with joy and as perfect as possible. That’s a lot of pressure for a few days though isn’t it? The holidays can be the heartwarming, charming, most wonderful time of the year but they can also bring grief, perfectionism, stress, and anxiety.
So, if the latter is feeling applicable to how you’re feeling these days, you might need a dose of realism and validation that looks nothing like the perfectly-posed shots you’re seeing on the socials right now. Here, your SOS guide to getting through the rest of December.
Take things off your plate
There’s the gift shopping, wrapping, showing up to the dinners you RSVPd to a month ago, driving to and from the in-law’s, your sister’s Christmas dinner, and not missing a beat with your daughters’ piano and dance recitals.
Talk about holiday burnout in the making!
Sometimes the holidays can bring on stress and anxiety because your schedule is unrealistically packed. If you have a tendency to take on way more than is realistic, ask yourself which things you can take off your plate. Maybe your kids don’t even care about that recital and it’s possible that your sister would prefer a night in with quality time and takeout…
Embracing the “let it be easy” mindset
What kinds of pressures do you put on yourself in the weeks and days leading up to the holidays? Many who suffer from anxiety also happen to be extreme perfectionists. The holidays are the perfect breeding ground for both of those to surface in their most extreme versions. This can look like wanting decorations to look as good as they do on Pinterest, needing everything to be homemade, wanting to buy your kids all the gifts on their list, needing everything to be perfect for the holiday party you’re hosting, or struggling with body image issues ahead of certain events.
What can go? Which things on the list can you intentionally make easier on yourself right now?
Go with the “less is more” approach
Does the dinner party with your siblings have to be traditional holiday food and fancy cocktails or would you have just as much fun if you got Uber Eats and a bottle of wine? Do you really need to take your kids to The Nutcracker again this year or would they prefer a night in baking sugar cookies and playing in the snow? Holiday movies, walks in the nearby forest, making snow angels, or decorating candy canes are simple activities that don’t require a lot of mental or physical energy for you and your family to get into the holiday spirit. At this time of year, less is seriously more.
Know that the holidays often wake up grief.
Holidays can bring up sad feelings about loved ones who have died, are sick, aren’t doing well, or who we’re unable to see during the season. Because it’s such a special time of year, the holidays highlight the people who we miss and can wake up grief. We don’t place as much value on other more average days but during the holidays, we want things to be special and just so. That’s why we might notice holiday blues setting in as we look around and really feel the absence of who isn’t there. Grief is part of the human experience—there’s nothing wrong with you if you’re missing those who have passed away, are separated by distance, relationships that have run their course, etc.
Be proactive and give back to yourself
The holidays can just be stressful and emotionally turbulent. The holiday blues is a known term for a reason. Sure, as kids it may have been a magic, fun-filled time. As adults though, there’s more on your plate and you may find yourself feeling difficult emotions surrounding perfectionism, body image, finances, family dynamics, schedules, relationships, or remembering loved ones who have passed on. It’s hard at times.
The question to ask yourself here is, “How can I be proactive and give back to myself?” Difficult emotions like anxiety, stress, grief, and sadness will inevitably come up so having a self-care practice in place to give back to yourself is key. That can look like 20 minutes of creativity first thing in the morning, reading your favourite magazines for a half hour every afternoon, or re-starting that skating or running routine that you used to love. When you make yourself a priority and give back to yourself ahead of time, you’re preventing anxiety and emotional depletion ahead of time.
Let your future self be the guide
When the holiday pressures are all feeling like too much, ask yourself if this particular stress will matter one, three or five years down the line. The answer: probably not.
Most of us get swept up in the moment from time to time and during the holidays, there’s just more coming at us that can cause anxiety. In those moments, try to ask yourself what your future self would say about whatever is bothering you. Chances are, nobody really cares (yourself included) about your wrapping paper, what you bring for dessert, or your holiday look. Connecting to your perspective in this way can help you choose what to let go of.
Connect to your values
When the holidays have you feeling overwhelmed and anxious, carve out some time to brainstorm what matters to you this season, how you want it to look for you and your family, and which elements of the holidays don’t actually matter to you.
It’s so important to live in alignment with our own values… otherwise society will dictate your next move for you. So, do you care about home-cooked, traditional meals or are catered options fine by you? Do you like a tree heaped with gifts for everyone or do you prefer to put limits on material items? Identifying your own values helps you realize that not all elements of the holidays are important.
Expect pushback and learn not to care
Not everyone is going to agree with you and once you become okay with that, you alleviate so much anxiety and stress. Ideally, family and friends will support your decisions and boundaries… but we can’t have everything we put on our wishlists, can we? Sometimes there’s pushback. Some will insist you partake in the big gift exchange. Others won’t take no for an answer when you decline that party invite. That’s their problem, not yours. If you make everyone else happy, you’re going to make yourself unhappy!
Feeling the holiday blues extra strong this year? There’s support for that. I’ve designed programs specifically for moms of babies and young children to grant them the tools they need to get through these years. Mama Calm is my self-paced course that acknowledges the anxiety that comes up in motherhood, helps you understand where it comes from, and teaches you to manage your triggers in the moment so that things like family tensions, packed schedules, and never-ending to-do lists don’t become factors that ruin your day. Imagine if holiday stress never got the best of you!