From the desk of Dana Nolan, Licensed Mental Health Counselor: It is that time of year again! We will soon be seeing television commercials or images in magazines depicting families enjoying the holidays. We see artfully decorated trees and beautifully set tables covered with perfectly cooked food. Family members all appear to be getting along and are dressed in color-coordinated festive attire.
Do we ever see a frazzled mother frantically trying to get all the food on the table while it is still hot? Where is that crazy relative who likes to tell jokes that not everyone thinks are funny? We don’t see children running around the house excitedly fueled by too much candy or cookies.
Our lives usually feel stressful enough throughout the year. The holiday season can overwhelm us further if we feel compelled to live up to unrealistic expectations of what our holidays should be like. Those “shoulds” can come from what we see in the movies or on TV. They can come from childhood holiday memories. The “shoulds” can be further fueled by pressure to keep up with the Jones’ down the road in terms how much money they spend on their children’s gifts or holiday decorations or similar stress and anxiety.
Take a moment and think about what is really important to you during the holiday season. Think back on previous holidays and pick out your most enjoyable memories and do more of those things. Stop for a moment when you think or feel a “should” about what you are doing this holiday season. Where is that should coming from? Is it a realistic and meaningful “should” that we have for our holidays? If we can let go of unrealistic holiday expectations and focus on what is meaningful to us during the holidays, then we can get through this time of year more happily and healthfully!