It’s overwhelming isn’t it? The holiday season is so paAtlanta Counselors|MeetOurTeamcked with wonderful time with friends and family. We have parties scheduled, people to seed, festivities to engage in. So why are we so stressed?

While the holiday season is meant for connecting, it can often become such a source of anxiety that we dread it. Why? There’s a few reasons. I’ve decided to throw them out there, and offer some gentle reminders of ways you can deal with the stressors in order to get through this holiday season. Because, who wants to be stressed for Christmas?

1.       People – Probably one of the biggest sources of stress that I hear from clients who come to see me in my Atlanta therapist office is other people. That’s because we break out of our normal routine, and they do too. We attend more parties, family get-togethers, and celebrations during the holiday season than we probably do all year. And depending on who you are spending time with, things can get pretty crazy. Even families can impact this. Being around lots of people means lots of personalities, lots of energies, and ultimately can mean lots of dysfunction.

So, remember to keep healthy boundaries. People may expect you to go, go, go, but if you can’t go anymore then politely communicate that. People may engage you in arguing, conflict, or drama. Set your boundaries. Communicate in healthy ways. Do not revert to unhealthy conflict. If you’re not sure how to do healthy conflict, just read about it. We’ve got an article on that.

And remember your ‘me-time’. Take good care of yourself. Take a bath. Go for a walk. Eat something nourishing. If you take care of yourself, you’ll have more energy to deal with others.

2.       Unrealistic Expectations – Can I get an ‘Amen’? Seriously, when did the holidays become such a demanding spectacle of who has it the best in life? Watch your expectations. If you’re stressed about getting your kid all of the greatest toys, but stressed about how much money it’s going to cost, then you may need to adjust your expectations. And, make sure you aren’t taking on other people’s expectations. It’s okay if your neighbor got the fancy car, and said you should get one for your spouse too. That doesn’t mean you need to go out and do it. It’s okay to be you. It’s okay to be conservative, set boundaries, live within your means….Set your expectations. Validate your expectations (understanding why you set them), and don’t let others sway you into doing too much.

The same goes for attending functions, cooking for parties, giving to charities, etc. Set your own limits and expectations. If you plan to cook Christmas dinner for 25 people but that means two days of stress, and not being able to enjoy your guests when they do arrive for dinner, then you might consider changing that.

And don’t forget to be realistic about what you expect of others. If your mother is always grumpy on Christmas, she will most likely be grumpy this year too. Prepare for that. Don’t let it ruin your day. Practice reality acceptance. An Atlanta therapist talks about reality acceptance here, just in case you need to learn how.

3.       Money, money money. – This could be mentioned under unrealistic expectations, but I hear this so much in my Atlanta therapist office that I wanted to mention it under a separate point. Do not spend more than you feel comfortable spending.

Money creates so much anxiety and tension for so many people. Create a budget, and stick to it. If others expect you to spend too much, manage those expectations. There are healthy ways to communicate about boundaries, and you can speak with an Atlanta therapist if you need to learn about them.

4.       Unhealthy Perspective – Having an unhealthy perspective about the meaning of the holidays is a quick way to promote anxiety. If you find yourself getting anxious, really challenge yourself to think about the meaning of the holiday. What does it represent for you? How can you promote that while minimizing your exposure to triggers? If you’re still struggling, practice gratefulness. Think about the little things and the big things you are grateful for. Then, verbalize them. Verbalizing gratitude can help with shifting perspective and changing attitude.

You’ve done it, I’ve done it, I’m sure we’ve all done it at some point. We’ve allowed the holidays to get to us, and experienced holiday stress. Wouldn’t it be nice if that just didn’t happen? Obviously we can’t avoid every small anxiety inducing trigger during the holiday season, but we sure can work to deal with triggers and change our perspective so more things don’t trigger us. If you’re not good at this, find people who are. Find out what they’re doing to be more mindful, more grateful, and less anxious. We all deserve a little peace this holiday season.

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