Although the holiday season has been called “the most wonderful time of the year” by some, for many of us it can feel like quite the opposite. Emotions and stress can be high as we engage in the season, leaving us vulnerable to triggers and overwhelm. 

If you are feeling any of these things, know that you are not alone! The holidays are some of the most stressful times for so many of us. 

While we cannot keep them from coming, we can think ahead and prepare with the hope of making them as manageable (and maybe even enjoyable) as possible. 

The following are some thoughts, questions, and tools to help as you navigate your journey through this year’s holiday season: 

  • Think through and plan for possible triggers

Whether it’s that relative that you can’t stand or that annual event that feels so stressful, we all have things that we know have historically been difficult for us. Instead of dreading them and allowing them to cause anxiety, get proactive. Where there are triggers to avoid, avoid them. When you cannot avoid the situation, ask yourself “What do I need to be ok in this situation?” Once you have an answer, plan for it. 

I know this may feel overly simple and I understand that it will not solve all the issues, however we do have control over how we respond in situations. You may be surprised how far a little planning can go. The plan can help us have a sense of confidence and agency in tough situations. 

  • Remember to focus on the things that are in your control and attempt to let go of the things that are not

Much of our distress comes from trying to control things that are outside of our control. In interactions with others, we only have control over our own actions and behavior, not how others respond. Therefore focus your energy on what is in your locus of control and choose to act in a way in line with your character and values. When we know we have acted in congruence with our desired identity, it can be easier to let go of the responses that are less than ideal.

  • Set expectations with loved ones 

Communication can be so helpful as we navigate events with loved ones. Disappointment and frustration often come from unmet expectations, however many of these expectations were never verbalized or communicated. Simply taking some time to verbalize and communicate surrounding holiday expectations can be tremendously helpful with managing high emotions. 

  • It’s ok to not do all the things

Give yourself permission to say yes to what you can reasonably say yes to and no to that which is too overwhelming. Be honest with yourself surrounding what those things are. 

  • Be kind to yourself 

We are not going to do everything perfectly and so remember to have kindness and compassion for yourself if and when you “mess up.” A helpful framework is to remember to treat yourself as you would a friend. Many of us have a lot of compassion for friends and family, but are very critical of yourself. 

**The information contained herein is not therapeutic advice nor a substitute for therapy. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any mental health problem. If you are located within the United States and you need emergency assistance please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. If you are located within Colorado you may also call the Colorado Crisis Line at 844-493-TALK (8255).

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