With less than a week until Christmas, it can feel like your to-do list is getting longer while your Christmas spirit begins to falter. Christmas is a season of joy and celebration, but the additional responsibilities, family get-togethers and the last-minute rush of gift-buying and giving can put a strain on your relationships and emotions as well as your finances.
And if you’re an adult student already carrying the weight and responsibilities of a full-time job, family, church and school—the season can add stress to already weary shoulders. That’s why we recently talked with Ellen Blaylock, a Licensed Professional Counselor and Mental Health Service Provider (LPC-MHSP) who is currently pursuing a doctorate in clinical counseling at Trevecca.
A practicing counselor and a student herself, Blaylock offered a few tips to help students and others celebrate the season without ignoring ourselves or increasing our stress levels.
1. Acknowledge the “missing pieces.”
One of the reasons the holidays can be stressful, Blaylock says, is that the additional family gatherings can bring grief regarding family members and friends who’ve passed away into sharp relief. “Whether you’ve lost a friend or family member around the holidays or sometime earlier in the year or years prior to, there are traditions aren’t the same,” Blaylock says. “It’s so hard because people focus on the missing pieces. During family gatherings that happen over the holidays, those missing pieces are very pronounced.”
2. Treat yourself with compassion.
“All year long, school is a priority,” Blaylock says. “Give yourself permission and don’t have critical thoughts about yourself and what you’re supposed to be getting done. Focus on what’s important.” For Blaylock, that means putting her kids first, before school and work commitments. Instead of focusing on all the things you might feel like you should be doing, Blaylock recommends a change in perspective. “Instead of the shoulds or I have to do this, it’s really a I get to or I’m so blessed to do this,” she says. “It’s just that ability to change the perspective that you have.”
3. Be realistic.
The holiday season can easily become a drain on your emotions, relationships and attention in addition to your finances. That’s why it’s important to set boundaries, Blaylock says. “Be realistic about what you can give and set boundaries,” she says. “Your family member may not be OK with you saying no, but in the long run, it will keep you from building resentments and help the relationship in the future.” In addition to relationship boundaries, she also advises setting financial boundaries. “As students, we have a financial burden that other people don’t have,” she says, “so being able to set boundaries for yourself [is important] as well—and being able to have some compassion with yourself about that. I mean, you can’t keep up with the Joneses.”
4. Enjoy the moment.
The holidays can also be filled with activities and to-do lists, rather than taking time to soak in the moment and truly enjoy the season. Blaylock says it’s important to take time to rest and enjoy rather than rush. “Slow down and be in the moment and not think about what’s due next Friday or what your classes will be like in January,” she says. “That time will come, and you’ll have plenty of time to prepare for the next season. So, enjoy the one that you’re in. If you can, this becomes one of the best seasons of the year.”
Let these tips helps as you navigate the busyness and stress that often come with the holiday season. Make sure you hit pause for just a moment and take time to celebrate, rest and recharge.
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