Managing Expectations around the Holidays

December is a month full of celebrations. Regardless of faith or religion, it is difficult to not get caught up in the excitement of the season. It is a time that society tells us is full of happiness, joy, family, togetherness, and so on. What we see on social media and television is usually also telling us how this is the happiest time of the year and if you’re not feeling it, you’re a Scrooge.

Growing up, I had some massive expectations around the holidays. It was always the belief that THIS was going to be the year-the year I finally got that gift that would make me happy or maybe it would be the year that I got everyone else the perfect gift so then they would be happy. But it was always the same-It was a day that was good and bad-no one’s life ever changed because of a gift they got, a meal they had or the time spent with family. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy myself, I had many happy and joyous holidays. Unfortunately, I often put some serious expectations on things and usually ended up disappointed.

How do we know we’ve put unrealistic expectations (or really, any expectations at all) on the holiday season? Usually we first feel it when our stress levels increase during a time when we’re “supposed to be happy”. When looking at your calendar are you thinking about how much time you have left to buy the perfect gift, clean/decorate the house, figure out what to wear to a holiday party and make the best meal ever? Does your heart race or your stomach churn when you realize there are only so many days left until your holiday? Are you overwhelmed when you think about the season? Do you feel sad, depressed or unmotivated to engage in the holiday season when you are usually excited for it? If so, you may be putting some unrealistic expectations on yourself, as well as the holiday.

So, how can you have a happy and reasonable holiday season this year?

1. Get back to the reason you’re celebrating – If the season is connected to your faith, try to remember to focus on what the season means to you. Even if this holiday season has no religious association for you, it can still be a time for family to come together and celebrate the positive things in their lives and the connections we have to other people.

2. Be realistic about what you can do – Look at the extra time you have that you can realistically put toward what you want to get done. Accept your human-ness and ask for help if you need it. Also realize that the holiday will still happen if the house is a little dusty and the laundry isn’t done.

3. Remember what’s important – Sometimes we have to set the bar at “will anyone die if this doesn’t get done”……if the answer is no-it’s ok to skip it.

4. Don’t forget to take care of yourself- Remember that lack of sleep, eating poorly, lack of exercise and alcohol can all make us more susceptible to emotional upheaval. Make sure you get plenty of rest, stay on a regular eating schedule as much as possible and take time for yourself.

Remember the holidays are meant to be a special time of year-they’re not meant to drive us crazy. We’re the ones who do that. Are the holidays stressing you out and effecting your ability to get things done? A licensed mental health professional can help ease the discomfort of the season. Please call Life Enhancement Counseling Services at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced Orlando psychotherapists.


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