The holidays can bring out the best and the worst in us. While a fun time of year, the holidays can trigger multiple stressors in all of us. For some, the holidays can stretch out from not just one event but to multiple days of hosting family or attending several events.
Caregivers are often most impacted by the stress of the season as many face the pressure to have the perfect holiday or the best gift. It may be tough to provide the same kind of celebration each year due to personal or financial struggles, which can create feelings of not being good enough or not meeting the expectations of your loved ones. Dealing with loss, whether it is coming from the experiences you are not able to provide this year to divorce or the loss of a loved one, can make the season and the feeling of togetherness incredibly tough.
So, what can be done about these stressors and tough feelings as we head into the new year?
1. Firstly, look inwards.
Manage yourself and how you are speaking to yourself. What are you saying to yourself in those stressful situations? What pressure are you putting on yourself? Being aware of those thoughts is an important part of managing stress and setting more realistic expectations for what the holidays should look like.
2. Think about the emotional tone you want to set for your family.
Remember, as a caretaker, you play a key role in setting the emotional tone within the home. Those in your care will take cues from you – if you are stressed, they will most likely also be stressed. Striving to create a calm environment and being mindful of each other’s feelings can be helpful for everyone in the home.
3. Think about your favorite memories from your childhood and how they made you feel.
Our experiences are cemented through strong emotion. So, if you are running on a tight budget, you can still create meaningful memories and traditions that are low cost or free. Go look at holiday lights, play games, find a local parade or market in your area, make a fun home video to rewatch in the future, or watch your favorite movies together. Remember to keep it about the experience, not the “things.”
4. Set and keep intentional and realistic expectations.
Try not to “wing it” when going into an experience or season that you know will be stressful. Part of setting a fun emotional tone is putting some thought and planning into your schedule but keeping it simple. Look at what your family has done in the past that should continue or go away. Simplify the unnecessary responsibilities and what you need to. Ultimately, people are more likely to remember the time spent together over the food you served or drinks you had – that time together does not need to be filled with overly complicated or expensive activities.
Give yourself the gift of grace and kindness this new year. Nothing needs to be perfect. Look around at what you have and who you are with in this present moment and say out loud what you are grateful for and enjoy the togetherness you do have.
Nexus Family Healing is a national nonprofit mental health organization that restores hope for thousands of children and families who come to us for outpatient/community mental health services, foster care and adoption, and residential treatment. For over 50 years, our network of agencies has used innovative, personalized approaches to heal trauma, break cycles of harm, and reshape futures. We believe every child is worth it — and every family matters. Learn more at nexusfamilyhealing.org.