Ways to Thrive During the Holidays

“Unrealistic expectations are an obvious foe to holiday cheer, and my own vague expectations have also done plenty of damage. When I’m not clear about what matters to me, I don’t know things aren’t measuring up — until they’re not. Too late.”
-Amy Hackworth

We all have expectations of how we think the holidays should be.

We have expectations of ourselves.
I must function in survival mode, things are so busy and tense anyway, the show must go on, etc.

We have expectations of our families.

  • I expect my husband to be magical not be an introvert for this season, and to do everything and see everyone I want to see.
  • The kids will magically put the technology away and not be sugar-crazed, and we will have nonstop family time.
  • I expect it to be difficult with some family members and I just have to put up with it.

We have expectations of holiday events.

  • I need the perfect party dress.
  • I need the perfect family photo for cards.
  • I can go crazy with food and alcohol. I get a free pass for the holidays.

We have expectations of our finances.
I must find the perfect gift for everyone, cost doesn’t matter.

We have expectations of our homes.
My house needs to be together AT ALL TIMES for visitors, even If I worked a 12-hour day.
Christmas décor must go up right after Thanksgiving.

We have expectations of our jobs.
I need to work all the overtime, if possible, to pay for Christmas.

When our expectations are not in check, our stress/cortisol levels shoot up.

How to Thrive!

1. Let go of how it should be or how they should be
Be responsible for your own emotions. Either make your expectations clear to those around you or LET THEM GO!!!!! You cannot control all situations or people, but you can control how you behave and what you think.

2. Check your real needs (sleeping, eating, exercise) & create time for yourself

  • Notice these are not wants, they are actual needs. It is a busy season, so pencil in some time for you (a bath, a manicure, a cup of coffee in silence, a date night out, baking, a run, a workout, golfing with your friends).
  • Monitoring food and alcohol can help. When we are stressed we crave sugar to turn off the stress response.

3. Feel what you are feeling and be realistic with yourself (say “no,” know your boundaries, have an exit plan)

  • Our feelings tell us something is wrong or off-balance. However, the thoughts we connect with them are not always true. You can check in with others about those, but if you are feeling some intense stuff this season, check in with yourself.
  • Do you need to say “no” to some thing(s)? Are you somewhere and you need an exit plan? Do you need to not be around someone in the family because it is just too toxic?
  • Try and figure out what you need and ask for it!

4. Practice gratitude - celebrate how it is this season, the lows and the highs
Based on a study in 2012, Gratitude helps release dopamine in our head, producing a pleasurable reward response, which helps us with better sleep, less depressive symptoms, and increased metabolism. Grateful people are more empathetic, forgiving, helpful, and supportive. As humans, we focus more on the negative, but by finding something true and specific to you, you can reset your brain. When something is going on for your right now that makes you cringe, can you find something in that low to be thankful for?

The negative will always be there and it is easier to see. I challenge you this season that when it creeps in, find something to be grateful about that is specific to that circumstance and write it down.

The more you speak it and write it, the easier it is to do.

I do not know about you, but my guess is that you have some unmet expectations this year. And as the year comes to a close they may feel heavier. Maybe you are still waiting for that promotion, are not married yet and thought you would be, are waiting for that baby or pregnancy, thought an illness would be better by now for you or a family member, waiting to hear about school entrance, or thought a prodigal child or parent would emotional connect back with you.
The holidays are hard for many people, yet in the stress, trauma, hurt relationships, illness, mental illness, PTSD, grief, and heartbreak there is always something to be grateful for. It may be difficult to recognize, and you may need help from a friend, pastor, coach or counselor, but it is so worth fighting to find. Our minds are designed to heal.

I hope this season we can be clear with what we expect, learn to expect the unexpected, and find a way to be grateful in it.

"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." Isaiah 7:14

God works with and in the unexpected ,and I am so grateful for that.
Sarah Andrews, LMFT #77394 Email:
“Ho. Ho, Help”. The Costco Connection. December 2016