Posted on November 26, 2019
As the Halloween costumes are put away, and the pumpkin spice lattes return to our favorite coffee shops, the holiday expectations have officially begun. Once again, seasonal cheer starts to permeate the workplace with holiday parties, the streets begin to twinkle with tiny tights, and deliciously saccharine Christmas movies start playing on every channel. Maybe it will be different this year, you think.
No matter what you believe or celebrate, everyone has some holiday expectations. Whether you’re the type of person that feels stressed during the holidays, or one who experiences post-holiday depression, they are rarely ever met.
Social media and cheesy Christmas movies can make us feel lonely, giving us the false expectation that the season should be a lot of things. It should feel cozy, involve snow, and be a joyous gathering of friends and family. Unfortunately, when you look at holiday expectations vs. reality, the differences are usually fairly stark.
And that is OK. Remember, life isn’t a Hallmark movie. But still, the holiday expectations. They pop up every year--despite our best efforts to be realistic, managing expectations can be difficult. So, how do we cope?
As much as you wish your family gatherings would be less judgemental, the truth is, you cannot control your extended family. You can’t change anyone but yourself, so let your expectations follow suit. Drop holiday expectations for others and focus on the expectations you have for yourself instead. How do you want to grow? How do you want to present yourself? How do you want to feel good?
Set Healthy Boundaries
Be realistic about what you want out of the holiday season and what is possible. How do you set boundaries that fall somewhere in the middle? If you have an overbearing family, know your limits, and decide not to spend time taking on other peoples’ emotions and reactions. It’s not your responsibility to carry anyone else’s feelings but your own. Likewise, if the holidays are an especially painful time for you, and it’s easier to abstain from certain festivities or relationships, go for it guilt-free. Participate only where you can, even if that means not at all. Book that vacation you’ve always wanted to take and enjoy the holiday season this year. Staying mentally healthy during the holidays and managing anxiety should be your top priority.
Don’t try to “fake it till you make it,” but instead allow yourself to embrace all feelings this season and see them as an important part of you so that you can nurture yourself and heal. Your family is who they are. Choose to love and accept the parts that align with your values and embrace the rest as differences you can all live with peacefully. Accept joy where you can find it, and focus your holiday expectations on people and events you can count on to fill you up with emotional satisfaction.
Seek Out A Support System
Whether it comes from friends, certain family members, or a mental health professional, managing holiday expectations won’t be possible without a solid network of people in place. As a therapist matching service, we’ll help you find the right professional to give you tips on how to reduce holiday stress. You will have more time to focus on your well-being and mental health - we alleviate the burdens around finding the right fit. Make sure you reach out and ask for help before you need it.
To set yourself up for a happy holiday free of sadness or failed expectations, practice these tips and enjoy the holiday season.
Alison LaSov, LMFT
Alison LaSov is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist with experience treating clients struggling with anxiety and depression. She predominantly focuses on mental health intervention for children and adolescents, particularly those who are in crisis. She has worked within the Los Angeles education system treating students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), as well as supervised a non-profit Teen Crisis Hotline out of Cedars-Sinai Hospital. Alison earned her B.A. from UCLA and M.A. from Pepperdine University. She is a native to Los Angeles and co-founder at Advekit.