The Montfort Group

The Holidays are Coming – Brace Yourself!

Oh boy, that time of year is here again! Lots of holidays!! Diwali, Kwanza, Thanksgiving, Hanukah and Christmas – to name a few. Celebrations and family gatherings. It’s not the gatherings that fire us up – it’s usually family!! The uncle who drinks too much, the mom who looks for what’s wrong, the cousins who stopped talking 15 years ago, and the kids who come down with gastro on Christmas Eve. Get the hazmat suits ready, we’re about to be in it.

All kidding aside, there is a tremendous amount of pressure to be “happy” at holiday time, to revel in the joy of the season when truth be told, it’s not much fun for many folks. At the risk of sounding like Debbie Downer – no one loves Christmas more than I do –the pressure to decorate the house like a scene out of the North Pole; to find the perfect gifts, to get it done early and to fling hors do-vers like Martha is enough to wear out any Wonder Woman.

Can we just give ourselves permission to slow down and breathe?

This is Your 911. When the overwhelm kicks in and you need relief, try this. Breathe in through your nose to the count of 4, pause for 2, exhale through your mouth for 6, pause for two and repeat the cycle. Continue this for several minutes until you feel your heart rate come down, the pit in your stomach soften and your muscles release the tension. Breathing is an important biofeedback tool you can access any time and anywhere. Use it!

Many Are Also Grieving

At what is purported to be a happy time of year, many folks are also grieving the loss of a loved one, of employment, a marriage, health and other losses. It can feel particularly acute during the holidays leaving us feeling isolated and alone but there are ways to take care of yourself. 

Logistics: Keep it simple! Ask for help, eliminate, shop online, order in, reduce gift giving. Ask yourself what’s important. Budget wisely and don’t over commit your time!

Grief: Don’t fight the waves of sadness. Grief has no timeline. Be gentle with yourself by not pushing if an invitation doesn’t feel right, don’t go. If you’re not up to something, don’t do it. If you need time alone, take it. Do something different this year or maintain the traditions that give you comfort. Journal, find a support group, be with friends in whatever way works for you. There is no magic formula.

Family: It’s especially interesting when adult children convene at their parents’ home for holidays. Every time my sister and I visited our mom, rules were followed or we ran risk of reprimand. She was the parent and we were the kids despite our age! Frankly it created a lot of tension. Is it like that for your family? Prepare yourself: manage expectations, limit your time, go for walks, don’t drink too much, find an ally with whom you can vent and know this too shall pass. Have a plan for managing conflict or high tension.

Health: Dealing with health issues during the holidays can add an extra layer of challenge to what is already a busy and potentially stressful time. Put your health first by resting, pacing yourself and eating healthy meals. Create boundaries, connect virtually if you don’t feel up to physical visits, manage medications and ask for help when you need it. Staying active, health permitting, can be a huge help too.

As much as it is challenging, the holidays can also be a lot of fun with the right amount of emotional preparation. If you feel anxious about what the next several weeks bring, talk with a therapist. The Montfort Group team can provide support and can help develop strategies for smoother sailing over the holidays.

Laurie Poole, MS, LPC

Laurie Poole, MS, LPC

Laurie is a Licensed Professional Counselor with her Masters of Science in Counseling from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX. She is also a graduate of McGill University in Montreal. She received advanced practical training in Emotionally Focused Therapy for couples and families at UT Southwestern, where she spent five years in the Department of Psychiatry’s Family Studies Clinic working with diverse clients of all ages. In addition, she has completed training in Collaborative Law for couples seeking divorce to find solutions in a more amicable way.

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