By Sheila Kennedy, SSJ, Ph.D.
Director of the Counseling Center
No matter what holiday you celebrate, every year the holiday season brings stress along with the joy. How do you make the holidays a cheerful time in spite of the tasks we face and the stressors we often feel now?
One way many of us add stress to our holiday-season lives is to try to have the “perfect” holiday. We see ads on TV and watch holiday movies that include people finding the “perfect” gift or throwing the “perfect” party and end up straining ourselves to match their perfection.
Resetting expectations about the holidays, scaling things down and creating new traditions can help to make that “perfect” anxiety go away. Living life one hour at a time and sticking to a routine can help everyone feel more balanced and less stressed during the holiday season. Some other things we can do:
- Make a realistic budget when shopping for presents and stick to it. Limit credit card spending or use cash. Get creative and go for personal gifts, such as freshly baked cookies or a homemade meal. A framed favorite photo doesn’t cost much, but is priceless.
- Volunteer. Altruistic behavior helps us feel better about ourselves and being of service goes a long way.
- Step away from the cookie jar. Or at least eat them in moderation. Keep up a regular exercise and rest routine and don’t overindulge and you’ll maintain your balance throughout the season.
- Balance traditions. Couples in a mixed-culture relationship should try to incorporate traditions from both sides of the family into celebrations.
- Family ties. Relationships can be stressful, especially during the holidays when we are often called upon to spend time with family members we don’t see much. Be as open and accepting as possible, loving people for who they are.
- Reach out to estranged family members or friends. The holidays are a good time to reflect on the past year and work on forgiveness and reconciliation.
- Make an “I am thankful for…” list. Realizing our blessings and new opportunities can help to calm any feelings of discontent or sadness.
- Reconnect to the season and its meaning without the commercial hype. Go to your particular place of worship or do something you enjoy. Connecting with nature is a proven way to lift your spirits.
Remember, the holidays can be stressful and imperfect for us all. Those feelings are okay. Relax and enjoy your holidays, everyone. And in the words of Tiny Tim from “A Christmas Carol,” “God bless us, every one.”
Sheila Kennedy, SSJ, Ph.D., and CHC’s Counseling Center can be reached at 215-248-7104.