Holidays are Stressful Times – What Can One Do?

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By Jane Matheson – CEO, Wood’s Homes

  1. Before the holiday time sets in, sit down and think freely about why holidays are stressful for you – or for particular family members. Have there been troubles over the past year – troubles that perhaps cannot be resolved – like an illness, a death, a loss of a job or a major disappointment. These are losses that are out of our control and they deserve special attention and kindness.
    Often people do not know what to do with these experiences so they do nothing. Nothing is not doing nothing – it is deliberately avoiding the person or the issue because of uncomfortability. And it feels like that to the person.
    Do something small. Bring a card. Buy flowers. Make tea. Sit quietly and listen for an opportunity to make a comment or ask a question. Maybe there will be none and that is Ok too. Try to quell your need to know the gory details. Prepare ahead of time so you do not avoid. Think about the person as needing you – even though they may not look or act like it.
  2. Are there unresolved losses or estrangements that involve deliberate choices made by individuals – to continue to be angry, not speak, not talk about the problem and try to resolve it.
    Ah, the dreadful power of unfinished business, the grinding of a building resentment and the desire for revenge. It will kill you.
    Make a list of unfinished business. Call people up to finish it; take them out for lunch; write a letter of gratitude or a letter of apology for someone who you just do not think you can see. Consider carefully if you hurt someone’s feelings. Apologize. The power of a phone call out of the blue – apologizing can make someone’s day – the feelings from that can last months.
    It takes two to tango in a relationship dance but it only takes one olive branch…does it really matter where it comes from?
  3. Read about the power of forgiveness and how it heals you – sometimes, it’s not really for the other person. However, the power of forgiveness freely given is a wonder.
  4. Learn how to apologize in a real way – even when you don’t feel like it.
  5. Listen more than you talk.
  6. Avoid perfection as much as possible but if you must have it – pick 1 or 2 things that must be perfect, confess this and engage others in helping you keep it that way…but let everything else go.
  7. Many holidays are times of wishing for magic and happiness – peace on earth for all. However, things happen when there is all that pressure to look good, feel good, make delicious food, buy the right present, get everything done on time and still be smiling. Take a break. Take a nap or a walk; have a bath, talk on the phone with a friend and refuse interruptions. If you dread going home or out of the room to face everyone, even after this – you have some work to do about something – but leave any major decisions until the new year..just accept that this is your problem and not anyone else’s.
  8. Many holidays are also times of soul-searching or taking stock. It’s the end of the year, you want to be a better person, you want to lose weight, etc. Sometimes we have lots of things we are dissatisfied with in ourselves and inadvertently we “act that out”. We do not mean to but we do. Children who are very troubled teach us this – you cannot keep all that upset, anger and worry pent up forever. And when it gets mixed up with anticipation, excitement and the fear of things from the past (the inevitable patterns) or the possibility of worse things – the dam bursts. What was supposed to be so wonderful – so perfect is ruined. It’s not deliberate but the idea that it might be good is so hard to take – that they make sure they do not have to.
    We all do this – sometimes we have no idea why we are doing it and we cannot stop – we just keep making it worse. Give in. Cry. Apologize before you get too far down that dark road. Try to explain if you can.
  9. Try not to drink too much if you are under pressure.
  10. Our behavior is just a hint of how we are feeling. We give ourselves away. Be curious but not demanding or judgmental. Try to understand why people do and say what they do and say – when under pressure, when we are afraid, when we are worried or scared. We will stop if we feel understood. We will escalate if we are criticized and ignored. Fear not the reactions and actions of others. Look to yourself.

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Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your friends, family and community – let’s work together!

If you are experiencing a crisis and need to speak to someone, please call our counsellors at our 24/7 Crisis Counselling Line: 403-299-9699 or toll-free: 1-800-563-6106.

Wood’s Homes is a nationally accredited mental health centre – proudly helping communities for over 100 years. Learn more at woodshomes.ca.

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