Holiday Stress

For some, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of a particularly stressful time of year through the holiday season surrounded by increasingly more intense expectations from family, friends, co-workers and community to be festive, to buy/consume and to give. For some, these expectations can be threatening.

Expectations are huge and seem to grow bigger annually. Our entire culture gets wrapped up in a massive effort to be happy and spend lots of money.
The frenzy of Black Friday is a prime example as it morphs to include an ever more gray Thursday. I think the push back by American businesses like Costco, Home Depot, Lowes, Dillards, Barnes & Noble, Pier 1 Imports, Marshalls and Publix Grocery Stores is honorable.

Be mindful of those who live through Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s with sadness, loneliness, guilt and pain. Those grieving the loss of loved ones or suffering clinical depression or PTSD can be the most vulnerable but none of us are immune. This season can magnify and amplify negative thoughts and feelings while abuse of alcohol, chemicals, money, food and sex – often associated with holiday “parties” – can fuel the hurt.

The desire to disconnect, unplug or avoid can increase ambivalence, doubt and confusion. Sometimes, we can feel coerced into conforming our thinking, feeling or behaving in ways that ultimately make matters worse. Family and social pressures can feel crushing.

This can be a very self-critical season particularly for those out of sync with all the “cheer.” Soften the clamor. Shun the busy-ness. Take down time for you. Traditions about what to eat, what to wear, who to invite or what to attend should not take precedence over your health and well-being.

Reach out… but be careful not to push or shove. Mindfulness includes quiet observation, careful listening and gentle reassurance. Remember you cannot fix “it” for anyone. I like to invite… then step back. Empower those stressed by the holidays to make their own decisions… and to change their minds… sometimes even at the last minute. It is always OK to say “no.” Its also OK to accept “no” as their answer.

Be careful not to project your “stuff” on to the holiday itself and onto other people. Few, if any celebrations ever end up looking like what media might portray. None of us really have any idea about the histories and demons that others harbor. Avoid judgement. Practice tolerance. Be compassionate.

Above all, don’t ever be afraid to ask for help or to suggest someone seek help. Be nice to yourself!

Holiday Stress

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