A Modern Perspective on Mental Health
By Peggy Defazio LPC
Coastal Counseling & Consulting LLC
Holidays: Full of Fun or Stress?
Last time, we looked at breathing deeply and taking care of ourselves to help us manage the stress that seems to come with the holidays. Today, we’re going to look at what’s going on in our heads when we’re stressing … scary, but needed if we really want to tame this stress monster.
Since stress is the body’s response to a situation that our minds have decided are threatening, stress management requires us to think about things differently. Most of us, when we’re stressed, tend to have all-or-nothing thinking going on in our heads. Say for example, we can’t find the brand of rolls that have always been served with the holiday dinner. If we go into all-or-nothing thinking, we will tell ourselves how not having these rolls will ruin the entire dinner and everyone will walk out angry.
Reading how someone could think that the brand of dinner rolls would ruin the holiday meal seems silly, but if we stress during the holidays, we’ve had similar thinking. The answer to all-or-nothing thinking is to take a deep breath (yes, another deep breath) and try to look at the situation more objectively. Will some folks be disappointed that the traditional dinner rolls are missing? Yes, but will it ruin the entire dinner causing people to walk out? Highly unlikely.
If you are one of those folks who gets stressed as soon as the holiday advertisements start, you may have unrealistic expectations of the holidays. We all have expectations – there’s nothing wrong with having them. The problems start when our expectations are unrealistic for where we are in our lives – if we can’t meet our own expectations, we tend to feel overwhelmed and threatened (cue the adrenaline dump). For example, when my husband and I were first married, we made very little money. Now, if we’d had expectations of buying extravagant presents for all of our family and friends, we would have been totally stressed. This expectation was totally unrealistic for where we were in our lives.
The key to dealing with what’s going on in our heads when we’re feeling stressed is to ask ourselves if we’re being realistic. Are our thoughts reasonable or all-or-nothing? Are our expectations for the holidays in-line with where we are right now? Remember, when trying to manage our expectations and all-or-nothing thinking, breathing deeply and taking care of yourself really does help.
Till next time!