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Overwhelmed? Find Holiday “Comfort and Joy”!

Thomas Kinkade paints an expression of tranquility. Clement C. Moore pens about a relaxing “long winter’s nap”, and Karen Carpenter soothingly sings of chestnuts roasting on an open fire. All portraying a sense of calm and tranquility. With so much to do, how can we achieve that sense of quiet joy during the holiday season? 

Mental Health America of Kentucky Executive Director, Marcie Timmerman provides the following suggestions to help Kentucky’s youth and their families enjoy the “REST” of the most wonderful time of the year!

Decorations. Food. Gifts. Lights. Activities. Traditions. Pinterest and Instagram. The holidays come with so much of everything. COVID19 pandemic precautions like vaccination and testing before attending large gatherings add an extra layer of stress, not to mention difficult discussions.

What can we do? What can we expect? Proactively, we can expect our time to be in demand and to feel overwhelmed and stressed at least some of the time.
Have a stress management plan and routine
Plan ahead to reduce stress – yours and that of your child/children. What things will be stressful? What will be joyful and easy? What things help you and your loved ones release stress? Then plan them into your days and weeks ahead. Exercise, mindfulness, meditation, and creative endeavors are all good ways to release stress. 
Set reasonable expectations
We all wish life was like a Hallmark movie or maybe a classic Christmas film. But it isn’t, and it won’t be. Be reasonable about what you can do, and what you can put up with over the holidays. A perfectly imperfect holiday can be magical and not make everyone want to scream. Some things to ask yourself: Can the kids really handle shopping for 6 hours? Will this work gathering make me happy or nervous? Is that family tradition one I really enjoy? Do I even like this person I’m feeling obligated to give a gift to?
Be conscious of the limited time you have
Your time is valuable. You are worth the energy and effort of saying “no.”
Schedule timeout and time off from everything, and keep that time sacred. Don’t let other things take over it.
You don’t have to say yes to every invitation. You don’t have to do every tradition “because that’s the way we’ve always done it.” If it brings you and/or your family joy, do it. If it doesn’t, rethink it or retool it. 
Get enough sleep, and stick to your sleep routine during breaks. It’s okay to have a night or two up late, but keeping sleep regulated is going to help everyone have a clearer head when something stressful – even fun – things happen.
Name your/their emotions
When things aren’t going well, name your emotions. Are you angry? Frustrated? Stressed out? It’s hard to manage something you can’t name. Different emotions have different toolkits for help. You can start here with the Feeling Words List.
Pay attention to each other
It’s easy to get distracted during the holidays. Take time to be a family, especially during school breaks. Check-in with each other. Communication that happens in an unforced manner is important. Set the phones, tablets, gaming devices, books, etc down and share a quick meal. 


Face It!  Holiday gatherings can be tricky for adults to navigate! Is Grandpa going to bring up politics? Is Auntie’s advice unwanted? If parents are feeling anxious just imagine how an adolescent might feel. Hunter Fackler, Face It Youth Ambassador offers perspective on holiday stress and shares insightful ideas for friends and relatives.

“The holidays are an exciting time for teens throughout the commonwealth, yet it also comes with dreaded moments. Many teens truly love visiting their relatives, but often dread the awkward small talk. The constant questions about plans for the future, grades, and school often leaves a teen feeling drained and stressed. Some alternate topics that teens may enjoy talking about would be their social lives, TV shows, and/or pets. So instead of asking teens “where do you plan on going for college?” Older adults can ask “what TV shows have you watched recently?” Or “what do you like to do to unwind after a long school day?” By showing a genuine interest in the positive stress-free moments of a teens life you’re sure to make a teens holiday better and less overwhelming.”

This year give your family the gift of realistic expectations. If you go into the holidays thinking everything has to be postcard perfect, you will likely be disappointed and frustrated. With a few adjustments and some good ol’ fashion consideration for yourself as well as your family you can enjoy a “mostly” holly jolly holiday.


Image : Unsplash