For some people, the holidays are a time for celebration. A time filled with joy and tradition, regardless of which holidays you celebrate or what faith you honor. Many people look forward to seeing family, watching kids open presents or putting treats out for Santa.
Then there are times when it’s not so happy during the holidays. Some people feel pressure to fit everything in. They might be alone or not have the ability to be near family. Or they experienced a loss. There’s a whole continuum of emotions, from loving the holidays to loathing them.
So how do we get through the holidays if it’s one of those “not so happy” times?
It’s important that you take care of yourself if you’re feeling stressed or struggling during the holiday season. We have to maintain our normal daily tasks and routines. So how do we fit in the decorating? And shopping. And cooking. It can feel overwhelming.
First, manage your mindset. We tend to want to do it all. Instead, manage your expectations and set boundaries. Ask yourself what things bring you the most meaning. What fills you up and gives you the most joy? You don’t have to commit to doing every single thing that comes up. Having boundaries like this sets a good example for our family, our kids especially, about not overextending ourselves. Having time at home together can be the most valuable.
Be intentional about scheduling time for self-care. If you know you need rest or you’re going to be irritable and crabby later, take time to rest. Share with your family you need the rest so you can enjoy the rest of the events. It’s okay to protect and take care of yourself.
When you feel negative emotions coming on, ask yourself why. What are the emotions you are feeling, and where is it coming from? When you understand the root of the emotion and where the stress is coming from, it puts more meaning behind the emotions and helps you control your reaction.
On top of the normal stressors and pressure surrounding the holidays, you or someone close to you may be grieving a loss. It may be the loss of a loved one, the loss of a relationship, or the loss of the family business or farm. It could be recent or it might’ve been years ago.
What is important to remember is that grief is an important part of the healing process, and there is no set timeline for when someone should be over the loss. It’s okay to grieve. It’s okay to feel sad. And it’s okay to set boundaries. Even if you have to write it down or say it out loud in front of the mirror, give yourself permission to grieve.
There is a lot that you can’t control during the holidays. Like the Christmas music playing in the lobby. Or the bell ringers at the entrance of every major retail store. Focus on what you can control and plan ahead.
For example, if you are going to an event but you’re feeling hesitant, plan your escape route. Take a good friend with you who understands your apprehensions. They will be your ride and leave with you when you’re ready to go. Or if you’re not ready to attend an event, give yourself permission to say no. If it’s not going to bring you joy or fill your cup, it’s okay to set that boundary and focus on taking care of yourself.
Again, manage your mindset. Celebrate and embrace memories versus experiencing them as pain or loss. If you still want to hang their stocking, then do it. If there was a tradition you did with a loved one that’s not here anymore, talk about the memories. Those memories can be a treasure, and over time, bring you joy. Focus your thoughts on celebrating and remembering those loved ones who have been important to us.
Lastly, if someone you know is experiencing grief or loss, remember that it’s not our job to fix it for that person. They are going to have to go through it and feel it, but we can support them by simply being there. You may not have to say a word. Just being there and listening, to let them know “I’m here” may be all they need.
This is an excerpt from the webinar Holiday Self Care Strategies and Tips. It is part of an interactive series of online sessions called Cultivating Resiliency for Women in Agriculture. For more holiday self-care strategies related to financial stress, spending time with family, helping kids during the holidays, and starting off fresh in 2020, watch the full webinar here.
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