Happy Holidays signI don’t know about you, but for me, the hoopla surrounding this month of holidays makes me want to retreat to a cabin on a little island, turn off the phone , and hide out until January when things return to normal again. But I, like most of you, have family and friends to be accountable to and know in my heart that I would disappoint those I love if I were to do that. Nor would I want to be all by myself during the holidays either. Yet this season can be so emotionally-loaded, expensive, and just downright overwhelming at times. We get so off-kilter with all the shopping, menu-planning, and organizing that we often miss out on enjoying the whole spirit of the holidays which I feel is a real shame.

The majority of my therapy clients are stressed-out to the max by this time of year and often arrive at my office looking like they can barely hold it together anymore. By the time some of them sit down in the chair across from me, they are already in tears saying something to the tune of “It’s too much. I’m feeling so overwhelmed. I hate this time of year. I just want it be over”. They look at me searchingly, as if I can somehow take away their stress, cancel the holiday season, or perhaps, take their relatives off their hands for a few days. Of course, a therapist has none of these superpowers.

But one thing I can do, and often find is helpful to these particular women, is to give them the time and space they need to just sit, breathe deeply, and find their centre again. We just sit and take some deep breaths together until they feel the panic and stress lift off of their tired shoulders. This can take a few minutes in some cases. That’s okay. Take the time you need to breathe deeply, centre yourself, and let the stress of the season wash right off your entire body.

During the holiday season, we need to stop, breathe, and meditate as often as we possibly can- even if we think we can’t! All you need is a couple of minutes and if you have to lock yourself in a bathroom to do it, go for it!

And for homework, what I often suggest clients in this state do is to declare one half-hour for themselves during which they will have no interruptions and can hide out somewhere alone where they feel peaceful and write a journal entry answering the following questions:

If I were to throw away all of society’s expectations of the holidays and what everyone else tells me I should be doing at this time of year…

How would I celebrate this holiday? What would be meaningful to me?

What does this holiday mean to me personally?

How could I find some spiritual meaning in the holidays? How would I express that (i.e., what rituals/ceremonies/activities would I want to perform?)

What did I love about this season as a child? How could I get some of that feeling back now?

Who do I most want to spend the holidays with? Whose memory do I want to honour during this season? How could I do that?

Even if I am obligated to do things/spend time with people I don’t really enjoy this season, how can I make the most of it and decrease the negatives as much as possible?

How will I carve out time for personal reflection/self-care/down-time during this season?

Esther Kane, MSW, RSW is a Registered Clinical Counsellor in Courtenay, BC she can be found online at www.estherkane.com