Sharing Your Recipe for Peace this Holiday

Posted on 12/18/15 02:23:pm

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Every year, we are faced with the challenge of maintaining our traditional holiday routine, while also taking on new activities. As our to-do list piles up, it can take a toll on our mental health. The unrealistic expectations of what our holiday is “supposed” to be like, including how we are “supposed” to feel can sometimes be too much to handle. “We look at the holiday season with the expectation that we’re going to be filled with a lot of joy,” saysChad Wetterneck, PhD, cognitive behavior specialist forposttraumatic stress disorder programs. “While that may be true for some people, it’s really a time with a lot of strong emotion based off of how holidays have been for us in the past.”

“For those who have experienced a lot of joy during their past holidays, the season is a positive time. For others who have not found joy in previous holidays, the season can be a negative experience,” he says. “Even those who are usually joyful during the holidays can experience some grief. This year may be different because family or friends are unable to join them or because someone they love has passed away.”

When trying to keep up with holiday expectations, some put their own well-being on hold for the sake of others, which can become risky. “Overspending is something that some people are going to encounter this holiday. The best way to combat it is to think about whether you can set up a budget ahead of time,” says Dr. Wetterneck. “If you don’t have the financial resources this year, try telling friends and family that you’re going to give a gift that means a lot and talk about the meaning when you give it—rather than focusing on the dollar amount.”

With all the hustle and bustle of the season, it can be easy to jump to commit to an activity with loved ones without realizing how booked you already are. “It’s helpful to think ahead of time about what you’ll actually be able to accomplish or have a trusted friend who can help you decide what to commit to,” he says. “When someone asks you to join them for an activity, try telling them, ‘Let me get back to you,’ so you have more time to consider your schedule.” 

Some of us are likely to sacrifice our own self-care during this busy season. “Build some time in for yourself or even for the group you’re spending time with,” says Dr. Wetterneck. “Try suggesting that your group spend 15 minutes listening to holiday music or taking a walk to enjoy the holiday lights.”

Sue McKenzie, co-director of Rogers InHealth(link is external), explains that many people battle with their own internal stigma or personal expectations. “When some people face a challenging time, such as during the holiday season, they may tell themselves that should be able to ‘just tough it out,’ that they ‘should be able to handle it’ on their own,” she says. “People may avoid reaching out for help because they fear what it may say about themselves—but in reality, it’s healthier to ask for help than to set unrealistic personal expectations.”

McKenzie suggests that we help each other this holiday season by passing along our personal advice for coping with the stress. “We share our recipes with friends and family during the holidays, so why don’t we share our recipes for peace, for handling the holidays and for inner acceptance?”

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