Every year, our group gathers to the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons – we call it “Thanksmas.” We get together in November because December is just too busy; and, as mental health professionals, we know better than to over schedule! 😉 These celebrations are always a highlight for me, and I was thinking about what makes them special…I’ve decided it’s the people. I am surrounded by good friends and colleagues for whom I have profound respect. Our conversations are generally funny (with plenty of dry humor) and thoughtful. We can talk about topics ranging from embarrassing Christmas memories to the #metoo movement, being vulnerable and intellectually stimulating simultaneously.

Holiday Coping

Tis the season! The season for family and Christmas music and good food and… stress. During the holidays, we juggle busy schedules, celebrations, family dynamics, high expectations and complicated emotions. And this year, many of us are still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Harvey. That means that our “starting point” for stress may be higher this year than it has been in previous years. And therefore, ideally, it should also be the season for good coping skills. In case you feel a need to add to your coping repertoire or simply brush up on your existing skills, here are some practical ideas for you to try this holiday season.

Making the Most of the Season

Is Christmas the most joyful or most stressful time of the year for you? There seems to be an underlying pressure to please others and an expectation to be joyful at the same time. The reality is, you cannot please everyone; and you are the only one who has the power to allow yourself to actually enjoy this season. What is most important to you this time of year? Do you want to visit Santa, send out Christmas cards or attend a holiday party? Maybe you want to order takeout and not cook, or put up a Christmas tree but not Christmas lights. Prioritizing what is most important will help you say, “Yes” to what you genuinely want to do!Is it difficult for you to say “No” for fear of disappointment?

Think Happy Thoughts

When you read the word “family,” what feelings do you have? Some of you relaxed your faces and experienced joy, while others just got a knot in your stomachs as you felt the anxiety creep in. I want you to take a moment right now and figure out what you’re feeling. Seriously, stop reading and pay attention to what your body is telling you! I’ll wait…Ok, now that you know what you’re feeling, I’d like you to think about how satisfied you are with that feeling. Are you happy with your reaction or do you wish it were different?

Making Christmas Mine

Holidays are stressful – this is not news. The demands on our time and finances this time of year are exponentially greater than the rest of the year. There are obligations everywhere! Gift buying for family, co-workers, teachers, various service providers - the list goes on… We spend our time going to our kids’ Christmas programs, work parties, theater productions, watching traditional movies, etc. Between our hopes and expectations and everyone else’s, emotions run high. It’s a lot! All of these obligations can take away our joy in this season. Well, I say – let’s take that joy back!

Home for the an Adult

Around this time of year, we often hear people tell stories like this one: "For the better part of 365 days, I behave as a competent, self-confident adult, carrying out tasks and handling a myriad of responsibilities. But put me back in my mother's house at the holidays with my siblings and I am instantly thrust back into the role of the baby of the family, with everyone joking and smirking about how I always get away with doing the least. And I let them do that to me--I fall back into that role so easily, and find myself feeling annoyed, irritated, counting the moments until it is over."

Unplug and Reconnect

If it’s December, it must be the season to double our weekly errands, our on-line gift ordering and the seasonal social events - all of which can increase both stress level and blood pressure! With all the extra activities going on this last month of the year, how are we supposed to slow down long enough to reflect on what or whom we’re supposed to be celebrating?

Gratitude Awareness Month

Guys, the holidays are upon us. I know, right?!?! My stomach just started getting in knots while I typed that… But since I’m a professional counselor and all, I decided I should do something about this panic and make a change so I can actually enjoy this season! I’m guessing I’m not alone in these feelings, so I want us to work on this together. Read on and see what you think.