It’s December! We’ve made it to the end of 2020. For some it has probably felt like it has taken a few years to get here, and while the holiday season is typically stressful as is, this year makes it even harder for many families. This entire year has carried many unknowns with it: jobs, health, relationships, and future plans all in question. As we all know, this lack of control typically causes our anxiety to rise, which in return causes irritability, tension, and lack of self-care and awareness.
So what are some tools to end this year on a positive note? To stay connected with our spouse and family while all hunkered down again? To manage our emotions in a healthy manner? Eliminate irritability that causes somatic symptoms to appear? Continue reading to better get an understanding of ways to be taking care of yourself and better manage this holiday stress!
I hear it time and time again: “I don’t have a second to myself…I am a mother, I work, I help my elderly parents, I care for our pets.” The list goes on. But the more you continue to deprioritize your own needs, the longer you will present as a person you are unhappy with in your other relationships. If you don’t carve out 15 minutes before the household wakes up, or 10 minutes away after dinner to check in with yourself and your needs, you WILL continue to show up irritable, snappy with your kids, having no energy for your spouse, and questioning your happiness. Have a baby that doesn’t like to be put down? You can write affirmations, meditate, listen to a podcast, or read a chapter of a book while rocking them to sleep! Been there, done that.
If you truly value something, you will find a way to make it happen. Not only will you show up as a better version of yourself, but you’ll also know yourself better. Once you better understand your needs, desires, and emotions, you’ll be able to communicate them better, relay them to your partner, and feel satisfied. Many people are feeling a lot different than they were at the start of this year, so make sure you check-in, slow down, and think about how all the change has impacted you and your family. Once we identify the root of our stress we can make action-oriented goals to create solutions that will decrease anxiety around them.
Your Relationship With Your Spouse
Like stated, once you take care of yourself, you can better understand your emotions and thoughts about external events. I tell my patients to do three things: Identify, Regulate, Express. Above, I had you identifying your stressors and triggers. Once this takes place, you can write about them, talk to a friend or therapist, or take time to digest the emotion on your own. Expressing the need and emotion comes after, and is essential in making sure your partner understands and can be the best support for you possible. (Unfortunately, they aren’t mind readers.)
Here’s an example: your spouse continues to send you gift ideas for family and friends, but each time you find yourself anxious after looking and discontinue the conversation. After sitting down you identify the anxiety related to gift giving, and present it to your therapist. Regulating the emotion with you, the both of you reflect on the past year, the pay cuts, the cost of having to buy a new computer for “at home” school, etc. Now you are better able to express why the anxiety presents and get the support you need from your husband. It may sound like, “I have realized each time you talk about gifts this year I haven’t looked forward to Christmas and actually feel extremely anxious. After some reflecting I have realized I am concerned about the financial stability of our family this year due to all the hits we took through the pandemic. I would feel a lot more comfortable if we adjusted some of the price points you have been looking at. Can we talk about that?”
You may also recall, in a previous Mental Health Monday live session on Detroit Mom, I discussed EICs (emotional identification check-ins) and how essential they are to couples. This is something I created after seeing many couples not continue the beneficial talk in sessions in the real world. These are 15-minute periods twice a week where we ask our partner (and get asked in return) how we’re feeling, what kind of support we need currently, thoughts about plans, and so forth.
Being Flexible With Holiday Plans
Traditions are such a fun part of the holidays. Making grandma’s cookies with her and the kids, friends and family flying in for the New Year, and possibly even planning for Santa’s arrival with your partner (Stressful or fun? To each his own.) are things that make this time of year special. Let’s face it, this year traditions won’t look the same, so here’s my advice: comparison only let’s us down. Don’t compare this year to the last!
Let’s take a break from tradition and think about what your family, who has had a YEAR, needs. Maybe learning to ski, hot cocoas as you drive through the light festivals, or pulling mattresses to the family room on Christmas break for a family fire and popcorn (and wine, 21+) is just what you all need this year. Be present, practice mindfulness, and truly engage with who is around you this holiday season. Who knows, just maybe, your kids will enjoy something so much they’ll want to incorporate it into the tradition next year. Be open to change, although it can be scary, it can also offer us some wonderful new experiences.
After the holidays comes January, and while we are looking forward to the end of a pandemic, we also are aware that gloomy months follow the holidays for us Michiganders. Due to this, we have high rate of SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and Vitamin D deficiency. Continue to check in with yourself, let your partner know if this is something that affects you, and get in touch with a therapist.
We at Reset Brain + Body are here to help! While we encourage staying present, I think it is also fair to say we are looking forward to what is AHEAD! Take some time and do a vision board for 2021 with your spouse, share goals for the spring, and start planning an event even if it’s just writing it down in a journal. Remember how powerful your thoughts are, and how they control your behaviors and environment. The work you do cognitively will take you a long way, and we are here for you!
Thank you to Kara Herrick of reset brain + body for providing this valuable information. If you have questions, or would like to talk further, please reach out to reset brain + body via their website, facebook page, or by emailing [email protected].