Your Emotional Survival Guide to The Holidays | Help with Mental Health Issues

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Your Emotional Survival Guide to The Holidays

Christmas and the holiday season is a great time of year. Friends, family, visits, parties, cool weather, skiing and tobogganing are all part of the fun, but they can also be stressful and anxiety inducing. Not to pooh pooh what is a truly wonderful season, but it can have its moments…

Holiday Stressed

But what can you do to reduce stress & survive the holiday season?

Here are 7 tips to get you through:

Don’t hide your feelings…
We can all feel a little sad or off at times. This is especially true if someone close to you passed away during this time of year, if you lost a pet or experienced some other loss or trauma.

Take the time you need to contemplate the meaning of your loss; reflect, journal, find ways to honour the (their) meaning and take time to share your feelings. This is especially helpful, not only for you, but for those around you. You will likely get the support you need and they will be less likely to imagine that they are part of the reason for your mood.

The truth is we rarely “hide” our feelings. The people around us and closest to us do notice and it registers with them that something is wrong. We can and do, however, hide the meaning and reason for our feelings. This can leave our loved ones confused and imagining they are somehow responsible. This can cause a strain on our relationship(s) and create a problem where there is none.

In marriage (couples) counselling the number one request is for help with ‘communication.’ The number one issue with communication is - not talking about what you’re feeling.

Ask for support…
One of the most helpful things we can do is to simply ask for help. It’s also one of the hardest things we can do. People tell me all the time that their spouse, partner or others should have known they needed help. To which I ask, "how?" The truth is they typically don’t know we need help until we ask.

As well, we try to ‘Lone Ranger’ our lives thinking that it makes us look more capable and competent. And the reverse is also true, in asking for help we imagine we are incapable and incompetent. However, asking for help acknowledges that we are created to live in relationship with others and it allows others the gift of being a blessing in our lives. It also get us what we truly want and need - help.

Let go of perfect…
The holidays don't have to be perfect. You can only do what you can do. Give up on the idea of ‘perfect.’ Perfect is a myth, a lie, an undoing of our best efforts. The concept of perfect is an imagined idea that only exists in our minds or on some photoshop'ed magazine cover. Because perfect doesn’t really exist, when we decide to embrace perfect, we have to embrace its evil twin – failure. We really cannot achieve perfection and so we set ourselves up for imminent failure.

Someone once said, “Perfection is the enemy of good enough.” According to the Pareto Principle, it commonly takes 20% of the time to complete 80% of a task, while to complete the last 20% of a task takes 80% of the effort. Trying to get to the impossible place of ‘perfect’ we expend 80% of our effort and never really get there. We get less done and are less satisfied in return. Learn to let go of perfect and embrace ‘good enough.’

Learn to dial it back and how to say no…
Taking on too much - you know that amount of stuff that seems like it’s not too much, but in reality leaves us feeling pulled in all directions - it leads to stress and feeling like we’re inept and inadequate. I know that’s just another way of saying incapable and incompetent. How did we get to incapable and incompetent before? By not asking for help. This time though, we got there by not being able to say ‘no.’ For sure, just blurting out, "No!" just sounds too harsh and it’s hard to do that, but there are polite ways of saying no:

• I’d really like to, but I don’t have the time right now.
• Oh, that’s a possibility, but not right now, my plate is full.
• Great idea, I won’t be able to get to that for some time. Perhaps you can take that on?

The list is endless. Take time to write out a few that will work for you and practice them in front of a mirror. No really, practice them. Otherwise, when you really need to say no, you still won’t be able to.

Plan like Santa…
You remember the song, “He’s making a list. He’s checking it twice…” The key is, most people don’t experience anxiety from having too much ahead of them, but rather from the thought that they might forget something and drop the ball. A simple life hack for that is to make a to-do list and check off items.

BTW there’s an app for that, several in fact. So if you’re not an old school guy or gal go electronic. Having a list will ensure that you don’t drop the ball and you’ll feel like you have accomplished a lot as you check off your items.

Don’t skimp on YOU…
Remember the airplane model! When the flight attendant explains what to do with the oxygen mask, they always tell you to place the mask over YOUR face and nose FIRST; then over your child’s next. In this scenario, if you take care of other’s first you may become incapacitated and they’ll be left to fend for themselves. This is a good model for our lives. If we always take care of other’s needs first, we may become incapacitated and of little or no use to others. This is not a prescription to become self-absorbed, but rather to engage in self-care. Without good self-care we can be come frazzled, over stressed, over anxious, depressed, ill, or some or all of that. You’re the only you that you have; don’t skimp on you!

Seek professional help…
Professional help may be a talk with your family doctor, a life coach, or a trained counsellor or mental health therapist. From time to time we all need support in dealing with life's challenges and struggles. But sometimes just asking for help can feel as overwhelming as our problems.

If you’d like to talk to someone about how you’re feeling or if life is getting out of control, call Life 360 Counselling (705) 791-5376 and book an appointment today. We are the support you need not only to make it through your day or week, but the support you need to truly be happy, thrive, flourish and have satisfying relationships.

Larry G. Pardy CD RSW BSc. HBSW MDiv.
Copyright © L3C 2016