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Avoiding Seasonal Stress

When it comes to the holidays, there seems to be a mixed-bag of emotions. Some people are eager to put up their lights and decorations, while others are bracing themselves for the stress-storm that’s brewing. For many of us, it’s a bit of both.

Having a “happy holiday” season isn’t such a simple recipe, is it? Especially when our feelings about this time of year are often deeply rooted in our past experiences, expectations, social situations, and the rat-race that we often get swept into. You know the rat-race I’m talking about, right? The non-stop shopping, baking, socializing, spending, wrapping, planning, go-go-going. Sure it can be fun, but it can also be overwhelming.

If you’re one of those people who’s slightly apprehensive for what’s to come, you can rest assured knowing there are ways you can create the kind of season that lifts you up rather than drags you down. You don’t have to allow the months to pass over in an uninspiring or otherwise exhausting way! Take control back, starting right now.

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If you’re ready to experience this season in a new way, then start by looking at your ideas and beliefs about how the holidays typically go. Our thoughts are one of the most powerful tools we have to change our lives (or alternatively, to keep replaying the same storyline over and over again). So if you catch yourself thinking about how awful and stressful this time of year will be, guess what you’re most likely to get? Yup, awful stress. Now, there’s a lot more to eliminating stress than simply “thinking it away,” but becoming aware of the thoughts you’re bringing into this season is a good place to start.

Begin by taking notice of the way you think and speak about the holidays (like “it’s all too stressful,”…“it’s way too busy,”…“I hate the holidays”) and ask yourself: Do these thoughts serve me well? Is this how I want to continue feeling about this time of year? If not, then take that as a sign that something needs to change.

Can you create some thoughts that are more inline with how you truly want to feel this season? In other words, start talking (or thinking or writing) about what you want to happen, rather than what you don’t want to happen. For example, instead of focusing on the stress and the endless costs of gift-giving, try focusing on what you love about this time of year, what you’re excited about, and what lifts your spirit.

Give yourself permission to opt-out of whatever doesn’t feel right for you, or adds more stress than joy. You don’t have to go to every event you’re invited to, to travel if it’s not truly what you want, or to take part in traditions if you don’t agree with them. Sometimes we feel stuck in traditions or routines that aren’t necessarily positive experiences. Instead, try giving yourself permission to curate a holiday season that is aligned with your values and what you know about yourself and your family.

If you’re happier getting cozy and staying in, then feel justified forgoing the party invites. If you’re the kind of person who craves festivities and excitement, then seek it out or organize an event yourself. If a full-on traditional holiday dinner is too stressful, scrap the idea and do something totally different: a potluck, take-out, or get a premade dinner. If all the gift giving adds an unreasonable expense, get creative and find ways to limit this, or opt-out of the consumerism altogether.

The point here is that you get to be in the driver’s seat of your own life. We often fall into routines simply because “that’s how we’ve always done things” or “that’s what so-and-so expects from me” but these arguments just aren’t that convincing to me, especially when it compromises you’re well-being.

There is certainly no right way to “do” the holidays, and what lights one person up will completely drain another. So, it’s ultimately up to you to ask yourself what you need most, and then to make the brave decision to listen to yourself as you plan and prepare for this season.

I’d also challenge you to consider how you’ll take care of your needs, making sure to give yourself some energy too, despite all the pressures coming your way. How can you weave self-care into your holiday planning? Where will you find moments of rest, relaxation, connection, indulgence and also nourishment? How can you balance the love and compassion you send outward with self-love and self-compassion?

I hope you head into this season with a clear vision of how you want to feel, and that you allow events, people, and festivities into you life only if they fit this vision. Self-care is often about saying no, even when it’s hard. And sometimes saying no to others, is actually saying “yes” to yourself.

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Kate Borsatohttp://kateborsato.com
Kate Borsato is a mental health counsellor on Vancouver Island. With her online counselling practice, she supports women during their transitions into motherhood and postpartum stages. Learn more at kateborsato.com.
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