Mental health counseling, like any other industry, has patterns and cycles. The spring and fall seasons are times of motivation, where clients are primed for interpersonal growth. Summer season can be a peak time as well, when schedules are flexible and families are spending more time together. Winter and holiday season? This one is ALWAYS a doozie. In fact, research shows that 88% of adults believe holidays are the MOST stressful time of year. It’s no wonder many of us think of the holidays as a time of survival.
In ten years of serving as part of the mental health community, I have never seen a slow holiday season. Holidays can be a joyful time for many! This is a time of family, of faith, of singing and cheer.
But for others, the holidays can be extremely difficult.
- Family dynamics can lead to stress and conflict.
- Hectic schedules can lead to burnout, fatigue, and children acting out.
- Working parents may face guilt of missing class Christmas parties or pageants or feasts.
- Stay-at-home parents may face feelings of being overwhelmed having all of the children home.
- College students experience the sensation of returning to their childhood home as an adult, perhaps even with a significant other in tow. Alternatively, they may experience their first holiday season away from home.
- Couples navigate differing family traditions and expectations.
I have created this holiday guide (and the kids’ version) to address the most common stressors I have seen as a counselor during the holiday season year in and year out. The goal of these guides is to help you be proactive in planning and communicating so you and your family can experience the most enjoyable holiday season yet!
If I had to choose the most important piece of advice I would say, “Set clear boundaries and expectations and communicate them ahead of time.” Whether you are a single young adult or a seasoned parent, having clear expectations will allow you to navigate the holiday season with minimal stress or guilt. Turn down events that crowd your schedule. Know your arrival and departure time for events that you choose to attend. Create margin in your schedule. Discuss with family members expectations at each event. Proactive conversations on the front end will help you avoid stressful, frustrating, or embarrassing mishaps in the moment. Plan and prepare, but leave margin for grace.
Need support defining your goals for the holiday season, defining clear boundaries, or communicating them with family? Schedule a consult now so you feel prepared for the upcoming holidays!
Want to read more? Get your free, downloadable PDF holiday survival guides below!