There are societal and cultural expectations that the holidays are perfect and always fun. There often isn’t a lot of space allowed for the stress of the holidays. Even if something is really fun, it is often really busy.
When it comes to the holidays, one of the main objectives for most people is spending time with family.
But deciding what that time looks like, and how that time will be spent, can create tension and stress that counteract even the best intentions.
“There are a lot of expectations people have about how the holidays are supposed to happen,” said Emilee Delbridge, assistant professor of clinical family medicine at the IU School of Medicine and a licensed marriage and family therapist. “There are societal and cultural expectations that the holidays are perfect and always fun. There often isn’t a lot of space allowed for the stress of the holidays. Even if something is really fun, it is often really busy.”
The holidays can also be a lonely time for people who have recently lost a loved one or experienced major life changes. Feelings of loneliness or isolation can become elevated during the holidays.
“For people who are feeling depressed or anxious, when they have the perception that everyone else is happy, joyful and enjoying their lives and they don’t feel that way, it can amplify that feeling for them,” she said. “It can make them feel even more isolated.”
To keep the holidays joyful for yourself and your family, Delbridge offers these tips:
• Prioritize your family’s values. Families should identify two or three values that are important to them over the holiday season and then choose some activities that reflect those values.
• Ask for help. Don’t take all of the holiday planning on yourself. Ask others for help or scale back to allow for time to actually enjoy the holidays. “If you are exhausted and overwhelmed and overworked, it’s hard to enjoy the holidays and it’s counterproductive in terms of the qualities and values of the holidays,” Delbridge said.
• Lend a hand and take a hand. If someone in your family has experienced a recent loss, offer support by acknowledging that this time of year might be difficult for them and by letting them know you are here for them. If you are feeling lonely or depressed, don’t be afraid to reach out to a family member or physician about your feelings.
• Practice gratitude. Create occasions that allow for discussions about what you are grateful for or volunteer for others in need. This is especially helpful for those who are feeling down or overwhelmed, Delbridge said.
• There is no such thing as the perfect holiday. The holiday season should be a time for togetherness, relaxation and gratitude. Try to keep that in mind when getting caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season.
SOURCE: Indiana University news release.