The holiday season can be like a magnifying glass for stress of all kinds. Everything can be more intense. Nostalgic memories can fill your heart, and break it as well.
It's natural to want to recreate the happy times, just as it's natural to be overwhelmed at times with reminders of loss, and frustration and stress.
You are not alone. Fortunately, there are things you can do to ease the pressure and mellow out the highs and lows that flourish this time of year.
1) Talk about how you feel.
Don't fall for the idea that only happy thoughts are allowed during the holiday season. If you have a friend you can talk to, don't hold back. Chances are your friend is dealing with their own stress, and might jump at the chance to get down and get real.
Venting in and of itself can be a relief. And sometimes you may be pleasantly surprised to find that possible solutions to gnarly problems arise in conversation. Either way, talking can lighten a heavy heart.
2) Lower your sky-high expectations.
Are you obsessed about laying out the perfect meal? Are the holidays incomplete if you don't make dozens of cookies from scratch? Do you freak out when the lights aren't just so? Is it impossible for you to say no to something you really don't want to go to?
Imperfect people don't tend to pull off perfect parties, dinners, decorations, or families. And we are all — yes, all! — imperfect. So expecting perfection is only setting yourself up for disappointment and frustration.
But people who accept that they and everyone around them are imperfect are more likely to enjoy the holidays. Didn't get the silver polished? No problem. Drinking hot chocolate or wine out of disposable cups? It's the contents that matter, not the delivery system.
Did your partner forget to pick up the flowers that match the decor? The kids aren't wearing the holiday clothes you had your heart set on? If they're wearing smiles, that's the most important accessory.
3) Decide on the goal.