Navigating the Holiday Season


We’re approaching the holiday season, which can be challenging anyway but the pandemic has added layers to family get-togethers and traditions that can make the holidays even harder. For some of us, there’s added financial pressure to give gifts, for others there are triggers to drink/use or having to set boundaries around family we struggle with. Here are a few ideas for you to consider that might help ease whatever burdens the holidays bring.

When you’re struggling with grief or loss around the holidays:
Try incorporating the person’s memory somehow – maybe cooking their favorite food, setting a place for them, or making an ornament in their honor. Identify the most challenging situations and avoid them if possible. This might mean intentionally creating new ways of celebrating or different traditions. Remember that you don’t always have to be happy and pretending to be can make things worse. Try allowing yourself to have moments where you allow yourself to feel the way you feel and honor your wants and needs.

When you’re struggling with triggers to engage in unhealthy or addictive behaviors:
First identify what specific triggers you are or will face soon. Write them down, along with an option or 2 (or 3!) for how you can handle it effectively. Then write down why you want to avoid those behaviors? What do you lose if you relapse and what do you gain if you don’t? Carry this with you so you have it and remember to read it regularly.

When you’re overwhelmed or stressed out:
Make a list of the activities, responsibilities, to-do’s, etc. Then circle the ones you actually enjoy. Analyze the rest to see what can be minimized, combined, or skipped altogether. Ask for help from others to get things done, and don’t sacrifice sleep – it will give you the energy you need to get things done.

When you need to set boundaries:
Give yourself permission to say no. Think about how you might limit the time spent with someone challenging, maybe meeting for a coffee instead of a meal. Consider meeting in public rather than inviting them into your home. Plan get-togethers around an activity so there’s less focus on conversation (maybe a gift-wrapping party, decorating cookies or a game night). If you don’t want to go to a party, send a thank you card to the host. Bring someone supportive along with you.

When you’re feeling financial stress:
Try to narrow your focus to making one decision at a time, which is less overwhelming than looking at the bigger picture. Keep track of how you’re spending your money to gather data for what you can change. Ask trusted people for advice on how you can limit expenses. Consider giving your time to someone rather than a gift – maybe you have a friend who would love help cleaning for an afternoon.

One thing will help with all of the challenges – make time for yourself to go for a walk, watch a movie, or whatever else will help you recharge your batteries. Try not to drain your emotional battery completely. Instead, schedule regular time for yourself to keep overwhelm and exhaustion at bay.