Managing holiday stress is by no means easy

HealthWatch

As a child, the holiday season was magical. Memories of the goodies baking, cutting a tree, and watching the annual holiday cartoons are still fresh. I know that I never slept on Christmas Eve because I was listening for jingle bells, footsteps on the roof and that infamous red-nose sighting in the sky.

Getting older brought on other memories. As the older generation of family members passed, there were fewer players for the pinochle tables and that tradition slowly faded away. The loss of those family members was felt in other ways too. In college, trips home included more time with friends and the decision of if it was safe to drive the several hundred miles home. Would the Mackinaw Bridge be closed?

As I got married, the annual trip home became biennial and I learned new family traditions and expectations from my in-laws. My husband and I had conversations about our different customs, such as real tree or fake? White lights or colored? As we have had children, the holiday season has taken on a new spin with new joys but just as many new stressors. Holidays are magical again, but what do I want them to know and experience?

The holiday season means many things to many people. The factors that influence how we experience this time of year range based on our life experiences. Some people may love being with family and some may not. Some may not have family members due to death, discord, or choice. This time of year brings financial stressors. Depression or trauma triggers may be present. Sometimes we have habits of putting too many expectations on ourselves and not enough time or money to manage them all.

Here are some tips about to manage holiday stress.

•Be flexible. You don’t have to do everything and do it perfectly. If the pumpkin pie is eaten by the dog, can you use store-bought or just laugh it off? If there is a blizzard, can you celebrate safer on another day?

•Allow yourself to feel whatever emotion is present for you. This is one situation where you don’t have to fake it to make it. If you are grieving, grieve your loss. If you are sad, cry. If you are angry, say why and process it. You don’t have to apologize for how you feel, but also try to balance your response with an appropriate one so you don’t bring on a family feud.

•Recognize that others also have their own emotions and they may not match yours. Just as you are entitled to your emotional response, so is everybody else.

•Know and respect your limits. Have your wish list of events, gifts, gatherings and then set out to identify the ones that are must-dos. Make a list of maybes and then cross off the rest.

With these few tips in your mind, I hope that you are able to honor your current needs, desires and hopes for this holiday season.

Leslie Griffith, LMSW, ACSW, IMH-E(IV-C) is an Early Childhood Mental Health Clinician at Copper Country Mental Health Services in Houghton.

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