By Molly Halbrooks | LMFT at Grow Counseling
As we approach the holidays, keep these simple ABCs in mind to help your family get the most out of the season. Try using one or all of these words as reminders when you notice yourself feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or frustrated throughout this busy time of the year.
No matter how hard we try, there will always be a level of stress that is present around the holidays. For some, it may come from trying to manage extended family visits, everyone being out of their normal schedule, or trying to manage your finances responsibly. It may even be brief, arising from something like having to navigate a tricky conversation with an uncle or pushy salesperson. Others may be grieving the absence of a loved one. Whatever your source of stress is, it’s important to accept that it is there, allow yourself to experience it, but not allow it to expand and take over. If you’re able to accept these moments as just a part of the season, when they arise it is easier to remind yourself that they are temporary and only a small portion of this time of year.
A good balance during the holidays looks different from family to family. Some families thrive on an active social calendar and have the most fun together when they are engaged in a lot of activities. Others need more down time and smaller groups to enjoy themselves the most. The goal is not to do it the way your neighbors or best friends do — it’s to find the right balance of activity for your family. Give yourself permission to decline invitations if need be, or to schedule fun things to look forward to. For families with small children, keep in mind that they may have a lower tolerance for changes to their schedules and can get overstimulated more easily. Families who have older children and teenagers may want to focus more on the right balance between family time and friend time.
Try to focus on things that give you the opportunity to genuinely connect with your family and friends, as well as foster an internal connection to what the holidays really mean for you. Choose to spend your time on the activities and events that bring you joy, rather than the ones that create unnecessary stress. For families with children, it’s easy for parents to get so caught up in preparation, shopping, cooking, and scheduling that they miss the magic of this season. Take a moment to savor the look on your kids’ face when they are reading their favorite holiday book or seeing holiday lights going up around the neighborhood. Use that opportunity to share a story about your own childhood holiday memories. Sometimes the simple things are the ones that foster the most connection and begin to become family tradition. For example, in my family, it was a special honor to put the topper on the tree each year, and my siblings and I looked forward to it being our turn! Spend a quiet moment reading about or reflecting on what the holidays mean for you. Remind yourself of why we celebrate during this time of the year, and how you might be able to carry those meaningful traditions and values forward into the new year.
Keep these ABCs in mind, and you’ll be on your way to a more peaceful, enjoyable holiday season this year!
Molly Halbrooks is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who works in the Suwanee area at Grow Counseling. She received her Masters of Family Therapy from Mercer University School of Medicine. She works with individuals and families dealing with a variety of concerns. She specializes in working with anxiety, life transitions like divorce or job change, grief and loss, trauma, and ADHD.