Securing Sanity During the Holiday Season

Four themes commonly surface this time of year: 

  • Concern about spending money. 
  • Regret about certain rituals. 
  • Interest in avoiding a holiday party. 
  • Stress that results from determining how to divide the celebrations for divided families. 

Money Matters
I have found that the discussion about money begins in November as the anticipation begins. There is talk about the number of people where a gift is necessary or desirable to buy. 

Often Black Friday is mentioned as a potential way to buy things for less money. I have had clients decide not to take the day off from work, but to get to the stores at midnight and spend the night shopping. And, once the purchases are made, anxiety about the amount of money spent is a common topic. At times, clients even cut back on their therapy for a while because the money is needed to pay bills. Talk about money continues until the bills are paid, which can take a few months. 

Avoiding Painful Rituals & Holiday Parties
Periodically there is interest in avoiding a ritual. Thanksgiving at the in-laws is less than desirable, but it is how the family celebrates the holiday. In therapy, we often discuss the possibility of changing the ritual, and, interestingly, it is an option many have never considered. 

Business holiday parties are often distasteful events. A worker is not interested in getting dressed up, spending an evening with the work crew and ending up with people who have had too much to drink. Apparently, there is the potential for undesirable interaction at these times. People often find that knowing how to interact socially with co-workers feels awkward and what to talk about is of concern. 

Dividing the Time
When there has been a divorce or the ending of a relationship, this time of year can be particularly awkward for those who have children. Not only does the couple have to decide how they will divide the time, but often grandparents or extended family are also involved. It might be possible to create a plan for one year, but then subsequent years create a new challenge. 

I encourage couples to focus on the best interest of the children rather than the desires of the family members. The sadness or disappointment of the grandparents can become the crux of the issue. I am certainly respectful and understanding of people’s wants and regrets, but often other family members need to be given priority. Too often, the young ones feel pushed and pulled and find the holiday season very stressful. 

Allowing ourselves to know how we truly feel and finding ways to act accordingly can be helpful and healthy. We allow ourselves to please others before ourselves at times. Changing the priority can be helpful. It is not always an act of disrespect.