Coping with the Holidays

Coping with the Holidays

by Susan Neuhalfen & Wayne Cagle, LPC-S, Owner/Lifeworks

Tis the season for present-giving, New Year’s resolutions, eating, parties and, of course, family. What should be one big happy couple of weeks can become very stressful. Lake Cities Living sat down with Wayne Cagle, a licensed professional counselor-supervisor at Lifeworks in Carrollton and soon to be in the Village Shops in Castle Hills.

Mr. Cagle listed some of biggest contributing factors to holiday stress, but instead of just discussing the problems that arise, he gave solutions as to how to deal with these issues:

Loss of work:
Many people lose their jobs just before the holidays and there isn’t a lot of hiring going on during the holiday season. All hiring decisions are on hold, budgets need to be approved and there are hiring freezes in most companies. This causes an extra amount of stress for people during a time where more money is spent than usual.

We don’t have control over losing a job, we only have control over what we do. Before you find yourself in this situation, take a good look at your lifestyle. If this happened, how long could you survive? Try to take yourself out of debt and, if possible, put some money into an “untouchable” savings account now.

If you have lost your job, see where you can cut back. Take some time
and make a list of all of your expenses monthly, weekly, annually, etc. What can you do without? How much do you spend eating out? How much are you spending on your hair or clothing?

Finally, find out if there is a way to “pass” on some of the Christmas presents this year. In some families, the adults don’t exchange presents. See if that is acceptable within
your family.

Loss of Relationships
Whether it be divorce, death, or simply the loss of a relationship, during the holidays people realize that something is missing. With the loss, traditions change and change is always hard. The thing is, grief doesn’t actually go away, it just changes. Some may not even go into the grief consciously, it’s the holidays that remind them subconsciously.

The good news is that with the passage of time, things get better every year. Instead of turning that moment into grief, celebrate the person you’ve lost. Remember the good times and start a new tradition in order to remember the best in that person. This will help everyone to cope.

Family Stress
Having to be with family tends to be a really big stressor for many. One may have to have Christmas dinner at her husband’s house but she hates her sister-in-law, etc. How do you cope with family stress?

Remind yourself that you’re not going to see the family, you’re going to spend time with your husband and it’s important to him. Now pull back and think about the others in attendance. Do you hate all of them? Chances are, you don’t. Reframe your perception of the idea or activity; stop focusing on the negative (i.e. your sister-in-law). The stress will not be eliminated but by not focusing on the negative, you will lessen the stress and make the activity easier. Many times, the things we dread the most aren’t anywhere near as bad as we think they will be.

Striving for Perfection
The perception that you’re a bad person if your children’s Christmas isn’t perfect is hogwash. Do you honestly think your parents didn’t make a few mistakes? Just because Bobby’s parents are getting him the latest and greatest toy doesn’t mean that you have to spend oodles of money on the same thing in order to keep up with the Joneses. Also, if the tree isn’t perfectly trimmed and the cookies aren’t perfectly baked it isn’t the end of the world. This isn’t a competition.

We have created an entire culture around the business of the holidays and, in many cases, lost sight of what is important. Think back to your favorite holidays. Were they great because of a gift? Were they great because the turkey was perfectly cooked? The best gifts are memories. Put down your phone, turn off the TV and spend time with your kids and family. Play board games, card games, and other activities that involve interaction. That is what your family will remember; not your perfectly decorated home.

The most important thing to remember, according to Mr. Cagle, is to focus on the positive. Your expectation automatically assumes reality. Stress cannot be completely eliminated. You have to have stress in your life; the trick is to manage it so it doesn’t manage you.

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