And with a blink of an eye, it’s that time of year again. Look at a calendar and you’re presented with pictures of the perfect holiday scenarios. There are kids playing in the snow, large families happily gathering around a feast and lovestruck couples exchanging gifts in front of a fireplace. The pressure is on to recreate the holiday images for yourself—or else! But what about those people who aren’t represented in the snapshots? Those that are single, divorced, without children or part of blended families. The truth is that the pressure can become too much for many people but it doesn’t have to be. Make the holidays your own by creating your own traditions.
Figure out what you want.
Essentially, holiday stress is caused by unrealistic expectations. Focus on your own needs and desires for this time of year and don’t focus on recreating a scene from a classic Christmas movie. Set aside a couple of days before the holidays to spend with yourself to examine what you are looking for during the holidays. Are the holidays about extended family or seclusion? Is this the time to explore or reconnect with religion or reach out to help strangers? Forget about what others may say, what do you want your holiday traditions to be?
Going it alone, or not.
Those that are single might look into volunteer work at a nearby soup kitchen, food drive or homeless shelter. Maybe you want to self-indulgently spend a day relaxing at a spa, outdoors or jet setting to a tropical destination. Rely upon your family or friends who may have plenty of interesting things planned. Maybe you are helping them fulfill their tradition. The holidays also tend to put extra pressure on new relationships, whether it’s a new romance or a new family dynamic. Remember not to force things because now is not the time. Chances are the new people in your life will feel relief as well without the rush of loaded expectations.
Blending a family means staying flexible.
For kids and adults of blended families, thinking of past celebrations bring back memories, good and bad. It’s important for each side of the family to discuss what they are accustomed to and what the new family can do to make things special. Be open to combining traditions or starting fresh. While planning can be complicated for divided families, kids often don’t mind celebrating more than once—in a different way in each home—no matter what date the celebration falls upon.
Timing is everything.
If you decide to change your holidays up a bit it’s best to start early. Don’t spring it on your loved ones last minute by backing out of a family meal and announcing a solo trip, or throw a new tradition at the kids on Christmas Eve. You may have shifted your outlook, but it could take time for others to join you. Change isn’t always easy, especially when people are presented with images of holidays past that were not ever quite real. But once you can let go of unrealistic expectations, visualize what you need and take the holidays into your own hands, you are one step closer to having a stress-free season worth remembering.
If you are concerned about your mental health during the holiday season, don’t hesitate to seek advice. Your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provides free and confidential assessment and counseling services. BHS is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 800-245-1150.