Coping Ahead for the Holidays

Katie Watts Renell's picture

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, Blessed Boxing Day, AAAAND Happy New Year!!! Did just hearing that make your heart beat faster? Palms get all sweaty? Do the Christmas Parties make your head hurt?


How can the Holidays bring such joy and happiness on one hand, AND be so stressful and anxiety provoking on the other (see how I slipped that “and statement” in there)?  There is great potential to be able to relax and enjoy this time of year. They key is being able to cope effectively with the possible pitfalls, and stressful situations that can present themselves.

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year”…  That’s a lot of pressure! Everyone expects you to have warm and fuzzies all throughout this season, and that’s just not every person’s reality.  Armed with the knowledge that this season can be tough for you, it’s very important to have a coping ahead plan in place early.  You know what your stressors are, and when and where they can be at their worst.

Let’s say, as an example, you have the Annual Family Christmas Gathering at Aunt Edna’s rapidly approaching, and dealing with family isn’t one of your strong suits. Creating a self care plan prior to and after you see the fam is key: taking the dogs for a walk, taking a mindful shower or bath, going to see a movie, calling your “Chosen Family” aka your friends, positive self talk (i.e. “I can make it through this”, “I’m going to be kind and loving to myself”, “This too, shall pass”), and self soothing can all be effective.

Dealing with family members can bring moments of awkwardness and friction. Telling a family member that you can’t see them over the holidays, for example, or  having to tell someone “When you interrupt me mid story, it makes me feel…” is not a  whole lot of fun, and can really bring on the anxiety. If you’re anticipating conflict, it can be extremely effective to create a coping plan for the “worst case scenario” using your interpersonal effectiveness skills. Coming up with a “DEAR MAN” ahead of time if you’re anticipating having to tell someone “no”, or for asking for something special that you might want, can alleviate some of that pressure, and ease the tension.

As we grow older the family dynamic can change, and finding out where we fit in the “family layout” can be a little confusing at times. “Listen Gram… I’m 17 now, and I can’t sit at the pink My Little Pony Table with my 7 year old cousins for dinner anymore”, might not be the easiest conversation to have. Use your FAST skills if you want to work on sticking to your values and keeping your self respect. It can be tough as we grow out of our roles from children to adults, or transition from adult to parent. Particularly when stress levels and family expectations are high.

The skill that I will be focusing on for myself, is The GIVE skill (be Gentle, act Interested, Validate, use an Easy manner). Comes in real handy when dealing with the overly critical relative, or that one relative that grates on your last nerve! I wouldn’t know ANYTHING about that ;)

Let’s wrap this up, and put a sparkly little bow on it. I think it’s important to remember that this is just one part of the year. It comes and it goes, and the sun will rise in January again! Who knows? You might just be able to find some moments of happiness, mixed in with The Elf On A Shelf, the huge mall crowds, and the Star Wars spoilers! So throw on your best Ugly Christmas Sweater, give the Dreidel a quick spin, lay out your coping ahead plan, and breathe… we’ll make it through this.