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Coping with the Holidays

They’re here: the holidays. It\’s a joyous time for most. But it\’s a time that many dread.

“It’s that strange paradox where it’s supposed to be the happiest time of the year, and yet it’s the most stressful,” notes Dr. Keith Klostermann, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, and Program Director at the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program at the State University of New York at Fredonia.

“Stress is a normal part of life, but, especially around the holidays, we often have unrealistic expectations about what holidays ‘should’ be.” Family dynamics, financial concerns, reminders of people who are no longer with us, all add to the stress and the disappointment following a holiday that didn’t live up to our expectations. Dr Klostermann has simple suggestions for helping you get through the season.

He suggests that each person stop and think: what does the holiday really mean to them? What is it really about? Is this a chance to spend time together, or are perfect gifts and the perfect dinner what makes the holiday? “Simplify and get down to the core values and meaning.”

This also applies to family relationships, too. People are messy. Do you concentrate on behaviors that won’t change, such as tardiness, or do you accept that people are who they are and tolerate that difference?

It’s stressful, but that’s a part of life. Take time to manage it. Take some \”alone\” time. Go outside. Listen to music. “Find some kind of self-care activity, make time to recharge when you need to recharge,” he suggests.

Remember, too, you can’t do everything. You can overdo it by overspending. Or committing to parties or events that rob you of sleep. Promising to do something that impacts your work and family time. When you’re stretched too thin, you become less patient and less tolerant. So again, ask yourself, is it really worth it? Saying \”no\” is an important stress-relief tool. “This doesn’t make you selfish,” he reminds us. “Taking time to take care of you is actually better for you and the people around you.”

Talk about your feelings, and be honest. If you are feeling stress, or overwhelmed, or you are sad, share it. Use your child’s interest level and emotional maturity to determine how much information you give, but remember that kids are intuitive; they can tell if you are keeping something from them. Honesty helps build trust. It’s always good to remind them that feeling sad, scared or even happy, is natural.

This is sound advice for any stressful event, a big family vacation, moving, a new job, or even adding a new pet to the family.

“In the end, it boils down to these key components,” he concludes. “Think about it and reflect, \”What does this really mean to me?\” and set realistic expectations, whether it’s financial or even within your own family. And, be able to say, ‘No.’”