Submitted by: Alexa Connolly, LPC
NorthLakes Community Clinic
The Hallmark Channel has just announced its holiday movie lineup, which means that the holiday season has begun. For some this may elicit feelings of excitement and joy, yet for many others the holiday season may be a time of stress, sadness and loneliness. While holiday movies may be heartwarming, they often set us up for unrealistic expectations of what our holidays should look and feel like. Let’s be proactive and reflect on what we can do to create realistic holiday expectations so that this holiday season will be less stressful and filled with love.
To start, many of us have lost loved ones and the holidays can be difficult as we mourn their loss. Grief can be overbearing and difficult to manage at the best of times, but it seems to compound itself when it is a holiday. Take a moment and recognize that it is ok to not feel ok and to struggle with feelings of sadness for the person you lost. Reach out to family and friends and be honest with your struggles. Consider creating a new holiday tradition to honor your loved one, whether it be donating items to local food shelves or shelters in your loved ones’ names, or taking a hike to a place that they loved. The possibilities are endless. If you notice that your grief is persisting to the point where you feel you are unsafe or not able to complete your day to day tasks, please reach out for help and consider talking to your doctor or a therapist.
Another big holiday stressor that many people experience is financial stress. The commercials and advertisements are bombarding us constantly with endless holiday gift suggestions, many of which are not cheap. People are reporting that even creating a budget for holiday gifts has been unhelpful, with the majority of people overspending what they had budgeted. This is where I challenge you to take a step back and really think about the meaning behind giving gifts. Does your child really need the latest videogame system or smartphone? Don’t be afraid to set limits on your spending and stick to them. You can show how much you love and cherish your family and friends without draining your bank account.
Lastly, I encourage you to shift the way you think about holidays to include creating memories that you and your loved ones can cherish over a lifetime. Creating memories doesn’t need to be expensive or overwhelming. Rent some snowshoes and go for a walk, play board games, build a snowman, have a bake-off with your friends, make cards for nursing home residents or veterans, serve food at the soup-kitchen. Most importantly, put down that smartphone or videogame controller and be present with your loved ones. This is your opportunity to live in the moment and find joy in the smallest things. Step away from the pressures of everyday life and stop comparing yourselves with those Hallmark movies.
Alexa Connolly is a psychotherapist at NorthLakes Community Clinic Minong. If you are interested in scheduling an appointment with Alexa or one of our other providers, please call 888-834-4551.