5 ways to Reduce Stress this Holiday Season

 

2017 has flown by in my world. I can't believe we are just a few weeks away from Thanksgiving.  As much as we love to talk about the joy that the holiday season brings, for many people the holidays can be a stressful time.  You may be finding yourself feeling pressure to buy gifts you can't afford, spend time with family that you don't have the best relationships with, pretend your happy when maybe it's a tough time in your life, and attend events that you don't have time for.  Here are 5 tips to help create a more joyful holiday season.


1.) Define your ideal holiday season- Have you ever taken a few minutes to really think about what it is you would like for the holiday season?  Would you like to spend a quiet Christmas at home? Make time to go see lights? Take a trip over Christmas? Have a day to bake your grandmother's famous sugar cookies?  Many times people forget to ask themselves what would make the holidays more special for themselves.  Once you have your ideal holiday season written down, look at how you can incorporate some of those ideas into your schedule.  It doesn't mean you don't take into consideration others, but you also make sure you are doing things you enjoy as well. 


2.) Set realistic expectations- So many times we let our minds create this "perfect" scenario  of what the holidays are going to be like. Unfortunately we tend to draw these ideas from TV shows, movies, and greeting cards.  Be honest with yourself about your current situation, relationships with others, and mindset.  By this I mean, if you don't get along with your mother-in-law before Christmas, your probably not going to wake up on Christmas suddenly best friends with her.  So be honest with yourself, and make a plan for how to deal with challenging family situations. For example, having a plan to go for a walk if things get heated in the kitchen, or make a plan with your partner to not stay as long as your normally do for Christmas Dinner.  Or it may be doing Christmas as usual, but planning a fun self-care day afterwards. 


3.) Practice self-care- Self-care is important all year long, but especially during the holiday season.  Self-care can mean different things for different people.  Self-care may mean taking a day off from work to allow yourself time to shop or prepare for events.  It may mean taking a hot bath at the end of a stressful day. It could mean saying no to certain events, or paying the extra money to have gifts wrapped at the store.  The important thing is to have a self-care plan going into the holidays. What are you going to do to keep your energy up this year?


4.) Set boundaries, and don't be afraid to question things- Every family has traditions.  Maybe in your family it is expected that you be at certain events, and do things a certain way. Maybe your family has tons of nieces and nephews that everybody is expected to buy gifts for.  These traditions can be the very thing you are looking forward to, or the thing that causes you to lay awake at night dreading the weeks ahead.  Take some time to think about what you can realistically do or not do this season. Are you on a budget? Talk with your family about drawing names for gifts, or set a limit on the gift amount.  You may be surprised by your family's reaction. They may have been feeling just as stressed out as you.  Also be honest about your availability. If you want to spend Christmas morning alone with your family, plan ahead to have a later lunch on Christmas with the extended family.  Or plan the celebration a different day.  The important thing is to communicate your needs, and be honest about what would make the season meaningful for you. 


5.) Practice mindfulness- Make a promise to yourself to slow down this holiday season. I think sometimes we forget that we can't ever get these days back. What do you want to remember about the holiday season? Of course the holidays take planning, but make sure that you enjoy what you are planning for.  If you find yourself thinking about the next event before the first event ends, try to redirect your mind back to the present. Focus on what is going on around you, the sights, sounds, and smells. Take time and enjoy the Christmas lights, the music, the conversation. 


Finally, remember that everybody's experience of the holidays is different.  For some the holidays is a reminder of what they don't have, or who they have lost in their live. Be understanding and compassionate of people that may not be as happy or excited about the season. Depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses don't take a break because of the holidays.  So be understanding with yourself as well, if you find yourself sad or lonely.  If you need help getting through the season, please reach out to us.  We would be glad to sit down with you, and see how we can help you at this stage in your life.  You can reach at (501)764-7988. 

Vulnerability and The Type of Counselor I Am

It felt good last week to make a blog post. I have been missing writing for a long time. My hesitancy in posting was that I couldn't figure out how to balance wanting a personal blog vs. my counseling blog.  I knew that I would haven't the time to maintain two blogs. 

My passion is writing about my life process, the joys, the mess-ups, the realizations.  There is no way to do that without being very vulnerable and open at times.  I worried, and probably still do worry about how that will be perceived by others. Will people not want to seek me out as a counselor, if I share my own personal struggles?

I thought about trying to write more of a structured, professional blog, on varies topics. (I am sure you will see some of that), but it just felt so not me.  So I guess it all comes back to EMBRACING my own truth.  And EMBRACING my truth means accepting that part of what brings me joy is sharing my life process. 

I will never claim to have it all together, to have all the answers, and honestly I don't think that is what counseling is about.  Counseling is about listening, and providing you a space to share your thoughts and feelings.  It is about being there for you as you make decisions about what your next steps are, about helping you let go of past hurts, about healing relationships, learning to love again, and finding joy even in times of sorrow. 

Thanks for taking the time to read this post.  I am looking forward to sharing my life story, and hopefully hearing yours. 

Lots of Love

Leslie

To schedule a counseling session, please call me at (501)499-9231.  I look forward to sharing your journey with you. 

 

The Truth Is We're All Scared!!!

Fear!!! It is a word that I don't think we like to use.  Anger seems to be the word of choice.  I see a lot of people angry these days. Angry over the elections. Angry over inequality. Angry over the way life has or has not turned out. Angry over past hurts, past abuse, and unhealed wounds.

For a long time I found myself experiencing a lot of anger. I was angry over things that happened in my life. I was angry over things that didn't happen. I was angry because my car broke down, or because I had to get out of bed.  I was angry because someone didn't say what I wanted to them to say, or didn't invite me to something I really wanted to go to. I was angry because of all the violence, and I was angry because I felt so incredibly helpless. I was just angry....or so I thought.

But when my husband was diagnosed with cancer, I realized how incredible afraid I was.  I had been afraid for as long as I could remember, but his diagnosis made that fear unavoidable.   I realized that all of my anxiety, anger, and depression, really had to do with fear. Fear of the unknown.  Fear of not being in control. Fear of being alone...This list could go on and on. 

The truth is I never really had control, and deep down I knew that.  I have struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember. As a counselor, I knew all the tools to use. I love deep breathing, mediation, listening to music...etc. I knew the coping skills, but nothing seemed to help.  When I finally realized the source of everything I was experiencing had to do with fear of the unknown, it seemed to help me begin to truly develop a plan for myself.  A plan that I am continually adding to and taking away from as I learn myself. 

For me my self-care plan to manage the fear includes:

Extreme Self-Care

Limiting the amount of time I spend on activities that drain me

Cultivating a supporting support system, and letting go of relationships that drain me

Adding more adventure and joy in my life

Increasing Self-Awareness

And accepting that I have anxiety, and using medication to assist. 

The medication aspect was definitely the hardest decision for me. I don't like taking medicine, but I realized that I wanted the chance to live life to the fullest, and my anxiety was keeping me from doing that.  For me medication has helped tremendously. 

The point of all this is to say that I think it is important for us to be honest with ourselves, and really look at whether or not it is anger that we are feeling, or something else like fear or sadness. Then we can truly began to develop our own path to healing.

Need some help creating your own self healing plan?  Give me a call today at (501)499-9231. I am a licensed professional counselor, and I work with adults, couples, and families assisting them with anxiety, depression, maintaining a work/life balance, improving relationships, and finding joy in life.  I am here to assist you in any way I can.