anxiety, counseling, goals, humility, psychology, regrets, relationshipadvice, self-help

Who is Your Ideal Self? 2019 is the Year to Be Happy and At Peace with Yourself

Hello, 2019!

We are officially in the kickoff of the New Year. It is the year before we head into the Roaring 20’s and you can bet next year will be a doozy, old sport.

New Year’s Day can feel surreal. Many of us are probably in the midst of setting our 2019 resolutions. (Or recovering from the night before–a time well spent with family and friends celebrating the end of 2018).

Goals are important. Setting goals give you a long-term vision and short-term motivation. Goals are what move us forward in life.

Personally, I am a big believer in writing down your goals. Research has shown that people who write their goals and dreams down on a regular basis achieve those desires at a significant higher level than those who did not.

I spent some time dedicated solely to jotting lists broken down into categories of different goals: Financial, Career, Health, Emotional Life, New Experiences, Intellectual Life, Relationships, Volunteer, To Do Around House, Family, Life Vision, etc. (Not going to lie, I LOVE making a good list).

Everyone would have different categories based on their life circumstances and values.

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It can be an emotional day come January 1st.

Mixed emotions may come about. We may feel overwhelmed about what are realistic, worthy goals to set for yourself.

While hope and motivation may be at the forefront of your mind, for others, there can be something so unsettling about the start of another new year.

Perhaps you are asking yourself, how did a whole year fly by just like that? That in and of itself can feel unreal. Time seems to be moving more quickly with each passing year. It can seem like we were JUST starting 2018 not too long ago. It is a bit wild how the years seem to fly by, blurring together.

For others, they can be facing feelings of melancholy about another year coming to pass. Another year where they did not achieve any of the goals they set out to accomplish. Or a realization that their life has long become stagnant. They cannot remember the last year where they did something new or different. They may feel unmotivated and uninspired realizing they have spent not just the last year but the last SEVERAL years procrastinating their goals. Many goals may have been lost along their journey through life.

The hard pill to swallow is a New Year can bring about the hard realization you may be stuck in a rut. Your life has become stagnant and you didn’t even realize it was happening.

As a therapist, the last couple weeks of the year, I find clients will often share renewed goals for the new year. But more commonly they will share with me the disappointments of the previous year.

Many of us view the beginning of a new year as the best time to make behavioral changes and overcome unhealthy habits. I know I buy into this time of year being an opportune time to catalyze change in my personal life.

Each new year is a blank slate.

Emotionally, a new year can be trying. It can feel upsetting IF we are not any closer to our goals or becoming the ideal person we hold in our mind (we all have this so-called ideal self–possibly a thinner, richer, smarter, more successful, more athletic, more charming, healthier, more ambitious version of ourself). If you feel this way, instead of building yourself up, you may spend New Year’s day beating yourself up over the failures of 2018.

The fact is we can never get rid of ALL the negative aspects of ourselves because those are very real parts of us. We all have parts of ourselves we struggle to accept.

We all have dreams we are chasing whether we share them with others or not.

The end of the year can turn into a tailspin.

Perhaps the last few months you have shelved even TRYING to become the ideal person you hold in your mind.

Perhaps you have even forgotten what your ideal self even looks like.

Yet goals that connect with our “ideal self” are most effective. The New Year presents an opportune time to connect with that ideal self.  When we RESOLVE to change, we feel better—more in control, more hopeful, more confident.

According to Carl Rogers, one of my favorite theorists, we ALL are constantly working towards self-actualization. According to Rogers, self-actualization occurs when we achieve our goals, wishes, desires.

According to Rogers (1959), we want to feel, experience and behave in ways which are consistent with our self-image and which reflect what we would like to be like, our ideal-self.  The closer our self-image and ideal-self are to each other, the more consistent or congruent we are and the higher our sense of self-worth.

But sometimes we lose ourselves on our journey to self-actualization.

This is why counseling can be a great first step to helping you get back in touch with the person you aspire to be. It can help you close the gap between your ideal self and your actual self. It can help get you back in touch with the REAL YOU, not the you who has been operating on auto pilot. A person is said to be in a state of incongruence if some of the totality of their experience is unacceptable to them and is denied or distorted in the self-image (Rogers).

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Steps to Achieving your Ideal Self

1)Reflect on your current self vs. your ideal self. What don’t you like about your current behavior? What accomplishments are you proud of? What are parts of your current self you would never want to change? What are parts of yourself that you have never seemed to be ABLE to change?

You are the life you lead–so choose your path mindfully.

How do you handle adversity? How you handle conflict? Can you keep your cool under pressure? How do you talk to yourself when you mess up?

What standards would you like to uphold going forward? What kind of person would you ideally like to be? Most importantly: WHY is it important to make these changes? Having a strong why is a MUST for lasting change.

2)Reflect on COMPETING GOALS. The fact is many of us have competing goals vying for our attention and time. We need to not be so hard on ourselves when we have to shift focuses. Life is truly a balancing act. It can be hard to strike a balance between being a good parent with a demanding career. Being social while being on a strict diet. Traveling the world while saving money. Managing our various goals can be TOUGH. You need to have flexibility in your expectations depending on what is taking precedence at any given time. Let go of absolutes in your thinking patterns–ALWAYS, MUST, SHOULD, NEVER.

3)What would you do–if money— was not a concern? For many people, money is a defining factor in their life. For others, it is a limiting factor. How differently would you live your life (if different at all) if money was not a factor? The answer can be telling.

4)What do you want people to say about you and your life at your funeral? Great parent? Good friend? Successful? Well-traveled? Kind soul? Did a lot of good for others? No answer is right. But how you answer this question reflects much on what you value in life.

5)Remember you ARE the life you lead. Ask yourself–what is your day-to-day life like now? Are you a dedicated parent? A career driven professional? Someone who makes time for loved ones? A fitness fanatic? Dedicated to healthy eating? Are you kind? Are you thoughtful? Are you having an impact in a positive way the lives of others? Are you well-read? Do you travel? Do you do the right thing? Do you sit by silently when you see someone being mistreated? Do you mistreat others? Do you mistreat yourself?

6)Remember you ARE how you spend your money. Ask yourself–do you value experiences over materialistic objects? Do you pour all your money into living the most extravagant lifestyle you can or do you live below your means saving for the future? Both are reflective of YOU AND YOUR VALUES. Do you spend more than you should? Do you save? OR do you feel well-balanced between the two?

7)Remember you ARE what you eat. Ask yourself—do you eat like you love yourself? Do you far too often indulge in processed food, sugar, and fried food? Are you committed to healthy eating? Are you committed to your health, period?

8)Revise your goals to better reflect your limitations and true capabilities. It is important to be honest with our positive and negative qualities. We ALL have limitations. Often our goals feel because we do not take said limitations into account. Be kind to yourself but be realistic. All unrealistic goals do is set you up for failure (and pain).

Most importantly: Our daily life IS who we are. How do you spend your days? If today, was your last day on Earth, could you say you are proud of the life you led? Are you happy with your day-to-day existence?

These questions may seem like a lot to think about and reflect on. The answers will be unique fo all of us and a reflection of our values. One caveat to keep it mind is we are ALL human. Do not expect to tackle EVERYTHING you set out to do all at once. We cannot expect to be our IDEAL self 100% of the time. Life happens (stress happens). None of us are always in a total state of congruence. If you are feeling overwhelmed, consider speaking with a therapist who can help you unload and process through some of those feelings.

Make 2019 the year you work hard, but work JUST AS HARD on self-compassion and being kind to yourself, as you stumble along the way to achieving your ideal self.

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To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Erin Doyle Theodorou, M.Ed, LPC, NCC

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822
etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

 

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counseling, goals, psychology, regrets, relationships, self-help

Regret: Are You Living or Merely Existing?

Who among us can say they have lived a life without ANY regrets?

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I would be suspicious of anyone who says they do not have at least a few regrets to their name (if they are passed a certain age that is).

Regret is an emotional state I wish on no one. Yet regrets are inevitable in life as we are all fallible human beings who make mistakes.

Thus maybe the best we can hope for in life is to have the right regrets.

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We are in the full swing of the holiday season. The holidays are a time of retrospection. If one struggles with regret, this time of year, it is sure to come to the surface.

Regret is common. Whether we acknowledge our regrets, to ourselves or others, is a separate issue.

Every one of us make mistakes in life. We ALL veer off course, make blunders, and fail. It’s is human nature.

Regret is a negative state that entails blaming ourselves for a bad outcome, feeling a sense of loss or sorrow at what might have been or wishing we could undo a previous choice that we made. 

Regret can be beneficial. It can push you to take corrective action–to attempt to right a past wrong. But some times there is no making right certain actions previously taken….and if that is the case you are likely to have chronic stress and ruminate over the past.  It is hard to move on when you cannot correct the mistakes of the past. In life, we don’t always get do-overs. This feeling of powerlessness and helplessness to change the past is one of the most horrendous aspects of regret.

We may regret how certain relationships unfolded. Most likely we will feel regret if our actions are to blame. Whether through not making the effort to stay in touch or from burning bridges. Inaction and undesirable action can both lead to feelings of regret.

Many of our chosen behaviors can lead to regret. Telling lies. Taking your loved ones for granted. Damaging a work relationship by blurting out something in the heat of the moment. Not following through on a promise to a client. Acting out our anger. Putting pride before those we care for.  Putting work before family. Putting our kids before our marriage. Perhaps we deny others happiness.  Or deny ourselves happiness. We may act against, not for other people. All sources of great regret later in life.

The thing is you see you reap what you sow. We all have the freedom to choose but we are not free from the consequences of those choices. This includes the emotional consequences of our choices.

Often times in counseling, I see people firsthand, face up to the emotional consequences of how they choose to live their life.

Regret comes from how we choose to live our life. Choices we made. Behaviors we executed. Or failed to execute. Regret is a painful emotion to face.

Here is a great article on the difference between regret vs. remorse.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/stop-caretaking-the-borderline-or-narcissist/201507/regret-vs-remorse

Our regrets may arise from living unconsciously. We forget to live in the moment. We follow the goals set forth for us by our parents, society, anyone BUT us. We live a life pretending to be someone we are not. We do not stand up for ourselves or others. We disregard our health and wellness. We hold ourselves back. We refuse to let go. We resist change getting ourselves stuck while the rest of the world moves on.

Sadly as people we are not very good at predicting what will bring us most happiness in the future. We are not able to accurately think about our future selves (hence why so many people do not plan for retirement or watch their weight/monitor their health–because their future selves do not seem REAL to them).

In Daniel Gilbert’s book Stumbling on Happiness, Gilbert shows how terrible we are at predicting what makes us happy. If you don’t listen to your own deepest values, one day you’ll regret having taken life too seriously and worrying too much about what others think. You will regret living a life that was not true to who you are.

Regret arises when we engage in forms of self-sabotage.

How do we self-sabotage? Procrastination. Acting out our anger. Self-injury. Comfort eating. Avoiding the doctor. Inaction. Self-medicating. The list goes on and on.

Just because we are adult does not mean our dreams just go away. Yes, we get older and our priorities and responsibilities change, but we still have things we want to be and goals we want to fulfill. We all have an idealized version of our self in our mind,  and while we will never be able to achieve every goal we imagine, we can’t even begin to approach our ideal self without giving it a try.

So…what does YOUR ideal life look like?

If you had a second chance at life, what would you do differently?

It is never too late.

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So take a moment to reflect.

What goals have you never been able to pull the trigger on? What dreams have you started to pursue only to quit? People are far more resilient than we give ourselves credit for.

What people do you regret losing touch with? What bridges did you burn that you regret? People are amazingly forgiving, especially if you take all of the right steps, to rectify such behavior.

Counseling can be a helpful avenue to pursue to help you or someone you know cope with feelings of regret. When people spend years fixating on a regrettable choice they often need professional help to move past it, and seeking counseling can help people talk through, understand, and move beyond regret.

It is time to take responsibility for your own life and your own happiness.  All the often we merely exist instead of live. We all have hopes, dreams, and things we’ve always wanted to do in life, but we put them off until “tomorrow.” And tomorrow often never comes. Everyone experiences challenges, but we all have choices. It is up to you to get the ball rolling. Or live with regret. The choice is yours.

Ask yourself. Are you LIVING or merely EXISTING?

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822
etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

counseling, goals, psychology, self-help

December: A Time to Self-Reflect as Another Year Comes to an End

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At the end of each year, there is a great opportunity to reflect on yourself, your goals, your relationships, your career, and your health (both physical and mental).

December is an ideal time to take stock of how you feel you progressed the last twelve months. Perhaps to reflect on how you regressed (we are human after all).  Self-reflection is pivotal if you want to live your life by your own values, standards, and ambitions. It helps you build self-awareness. Our goals often become unrealized because we lack self-awareness. We live on auto-pilot. 

Self-reflection gives you the time to ask yourself the important questions. Without self-reflection it is easy to drift into a life of complacency. It is easy to become stagnant. People far too often take the path of least resistance. Just as you should review each day, week, and month, at the end of each year you should set aside time to review the year and reflect on how it unfolded. 

Are you happy with how your year turned out?

Are you happy with how your life has turned out?

December is a time of friends, fun, festivities, food, and family but most of all it’s a time of reflection and planning for the year ahead.

We all know January is notorious for short-lived resolutions. Yet in order to embrace the new, we must release the old. The old will block us from reaching our goals if we do not process through the past. The end of the year is an opportune time to think about what you accomplished, what you enjoyed, what you disliked, and what you want to improve upon in the new year. The new year is a great time to let go: let go of failed goals, past hurts, toxic people, your own negativity, and perpetual bad habits. Most importantly let go of things that are not meant for you: whether that may be goals that aren’t your own, certain relationships that bring you down, or your own self-defeating attitude. An important part of preparing for the New Year is to reflect on the past year—to release it—and to learn from it.…

If done right, it can also help you establish and achieve more meaningful goals.

I am a big believer in self-reflection to keep on track. As a therapist, I often reflect with my clients how they feel about the progression of their treatment and the counseling process. I am also a person who tries to make time to self-reflect on my own life. I aim to take time out of my schedule to ponder where I have been, where I am at presently, and where I would like to go. I reflect on what I am doing well, what I can do better, and am honest with myself about things I will never do well (the list is sadly longer than I care to admit 😉 ).

The end of the year is the perfect time to not just reflect on this past year, but to pay mind to where we are at in this stage of our life. Too often we are so caught up in our day-to-day lives, we fail to reflect on our journeys thus far.

Write out your thoughts and feelings. Do some journaling. Consider writing a letter—which can be a powerful self-development tool.  Consider writing a letter to people who hurt you–to get out the painful feelings and resentment (no, you do not actually send it). Process the pain of the past, take joy in the successes, and figure out how to forge ahead on the next chapter. 

Reflect upon what you did, how you felt, what you liked, what you didn’t and what you learned. What do you want to continue in the new year? What do you hope to change? Have you achieved any of your goals? Did you stumble on your pursuit of certain goals? What have you learned about yourself? About other people?

Consider making a list of all your goals for the next year, next 5 years, next 10 years, and a big picture life goal.

Grab a piece of paper and reflect on the following:

How did you grow this past year?

What’s not working in your life?

What is going well?

How is your attitude? Towards yourself and others?

Is your career heading in the right direction?

Are your finances where they need to be? Are you planning for the future?

Are you being the type of parent you would have wanted when you were growing up?

Are you being the type of person that you would want to spend time with?

Are you healthy? Physically? Mentally? Emotionally?

How are your relationships? With others? How about your relationship with yourself?

If your teenage self could see you now, what would he (or she) think?

What is one goal you have for EACH area of your life?

Have you traveled anywhere new?

Have you done ANYTHING to step outside your comfort zone?

Going forward, what kind of parent, sibling, professional, friend, partner (and other roles) do you want to be?

What do you want?

Self-reflection can be hard. It can be painful. But it can also be inspiring. It helps us to improve our lives and ensure we are living by our values.

Maybe this past year was awesome and full of joy. Maybe it was 12 months you’d rather forget. Either way a new year is upon us and it is up to you what you will make of it.

Give yourself the space and freedom to contemplate, to meditate, and to reflect on the past year.

It is time to start fresh. It is wild to me that a whole year has passed since the last one. They seem to go faster and faster with each passing year. We are all a year older. My questions for you: Are you a year wiser? Are you closer to reaching your goals? Are you willing to close the gap on your actual life vs. your ideal life?

Counseling can be a great place to start.

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822
etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

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counseling, forgiveness, loneliness, lonely, psychology, relationshipadvice, relationships, resentment, self-help

Loneliness: Do You Ever Feel Lonely?

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What do you believe makes us happiest and most content in life?

Some people might say money and success. Accomplishments and material possessions. Fame and fortune.

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Research shows this is not true. True joy and fulfillment comes from good relationships and feeling connected.

Loneliness is at the opposite end of the spectrum.

Loneliness is an emotional state we have when we feel disconnected. Our need for connection is ingrained in our DNA. Loneliness is a signal that something is not right. 

People have a fundamental need for inclusion, to be part of social circles, and for close relationships. We function best when our social needs are being met.

As someone who works in mental health, feeling lonely is a common experience that people report to me. I always ask clients if they feel lonely during our initial session. Nine times out of ten the answer is YES. I truly believe loneliness in our country is on the rise and may be the next public health crisis (if it isn’t already).

If you haven’t suffered from it, I guarantee you someone in your life has.

In this technological age, people are feeling more disconnected than ever from their fellow man.The feeling of loneliness or being detached from others is not just a human emotion; it is a complex emotional response to a multitude of factors.

Loneliness a universal human emotion that is both complex and unique to each individual. Because it has no single common cause, the prevention and treatment of this potentially damaging state of mind can vary greatly.

Loneliness represents a fundamental discrepancy between the relationships we have and the relationships we want.

Loneliness is a serious issue, as it can lead to despair and depression. It is often an emotion experienced by people who end up committing suicide. In my humble opinion, if I had to pick one thing that is key to living a happy life,  I’d say: strong, close bonds with other people.

The hardest times in my life have been overcome by the close bonds I have with my family and friends. The happiest times of my life have been THAT much more joyful because I was surrounded by the very same people. Connecting with others is a strong psychological need and is fundamental to our well-being.

Research shows loneliness can be more deadly than smoking or obesity. It can lead to a whole host of physical ailments. Loneliness does not harm just the mind but the body. Emotional pain lights up the same part of our brain as physical pain. An insult can feel just as painful as getting your hand slammed in the door.

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When someone says you broke my heart it is not just an expression. Emotional pain hurts. LONELINESS IS PAINFUL.

Loneliness is a state of mind. It is distinct from being alone which is a choice. Many people love to be alone–some people say they find solace in solitude, do their best work in solitude. Being alone is not synonymous with being lonely. We can be surrounded by people yet still feel quite lonely.

Loneliness is a silent killer. It is an epidemic. People, at alarming rates, are reporting being lonely. I think the nature of relationships has changed in the last couple decades and we have failed to adapt. We live in this “always on” society. We are always connected digitally but failing to connect emotionally.

The lack of empathy in our society is alarming. Many people unless forced to empathize will unfortunately simply not do it. Most likely because being empathetic requires being vulnerable. Being vulnerable opens us up to being hurt and judged. Therefore, for many being vulnerable is too great a risk to their emotional and psychological well-being.

Yet the cost of this lack of vulnerability and empathy…is loneliness.

The reality is we need to be able to connect and empathize with others to be truly happy and fulfilled. We need to expand our capacity for kindness and compassion to overcome said loneliness.

One key — maybe the key — to happiness is strong connections to other people.

What are some signs you may be lonely?

~Irregular sleep: sleeping too much, too little, or struggling with falling asleep

~Low-grade, chronic anger and feelings of resentment

~Change is eating: eating too much or too little

~Being addicted to your phone

~You get sick frequently–every cold, every virus

~Shopping alot

~You spend time with other lonely people

~You are constantly tired

~You feel depressed

~You are drinking more or self-medicating in one form or another

~Taking long showers

~You blow things out of proportion

If you read the aforementioned, and you are thinking, “Yes, I AM lonely — so now what can I do to change it?”

1.Help others — teaching, volunteering, caring for children, aging parents, or animals — all helps to mitigate loneliness. These are also suggestions I give my clients suffering from depression–to try to shift your focus from self to serving others in some capacity. It can do wonders for many common mental health ailments. Helping others can also alleviate feelings of loneliness. Prioritize and ritualize connecting with others.

2.Try to figure out what’s missing from your life. Do you have close friends? Are you close with certain family members? I am talking about genuine closeness where you talk about feelings and emotions, not just physical closeness. Are you and your partner communicating outside of the superficial?  Do you feel you contribute to the world and society? Do you have something outside of yourself you derive meaning from? Think long and hard about what you feel is missing from your life. The more clearly you understand what’s missing, the more clearly you’ll see possible solutions.

3.Be positive and open-minded. Are you struggling with negative emotions? Negative emotions like judgement, anger, envy, ultra-competitiveness, jealousy, guilt, resentment are all are warning signs something needs to change in your life. These emotions also hinder your ability to connect with others. People can pick up on your negativity and will steer clear. Loneliness in and of itself can make people feel more critical, jealous, judgemental, and negative. If you recognize that your loneliness may be affecting you in this manner, you can take steps to counter it. Counseling might be a great place to start the journey to overcoming your negative emotions and feelings of loneliness.

4.Ask yourself, “How am I relating to others?” Are you communicating to others you are a safe, trustworthy person to connect with? Are you judgemental and negative? Are you respectful of differences? Are you open to building close bonds with others or do you feel other people are not to be trusted? Do you look at other people as kind and warm or selfish and cold? How you view others is an important part of this process. Do you do your part in reaching out to others? Are you scared to put yourself out there? Take time to reflect on your self-defeating thoughts. Remember we all eventually reap what we sow in our relationships.

5.Learn to be at ease with yourself. Accept yourself. The good,the bad, and the ugly. Stop running from your perceived faults and shortcomings. Some people spend their whole life in non-acceptance of their whole self. If you live your life this way, you will inevitably feel lonely. You will not be at ease in your own skin. If you cannot accept all of you, it will lead you to feel you NEED others. Loneliness will follow suit.

6.Check your ego at the door. The ego always lead you to feel lonely. Do you find you feel superior to others? Or inferior to others? Two sides of the same coin both of which will ensure loneliness. When we feel lonely, we tend to blame external factors including other people. The best way to stop feeling lonely in your life and relationships is to examine your thoughts and world view. Is your ego in the driver’s seat? An out of control ego coincides with feeling “separate” from others and life itself. The very nature of the ego is separation. Our ego drives us to be very isolated. In order to be connected with need to be seen, heard, and valued. In order to feel this way, we need to be capable of making OTHERS feel seen, heard, and valued. It is a two-way street. If your ego is in the driver’s seat, you will almost certainly struggle with loneliness for as long as that is the case, you will not be capable of truly seeing, hearing, and valuing others.

I truly believe we can change this trend in loneliness. But first we need to figure out a way to address this growing empathy gap in our society.

Try asking someone how they are doing. Be brave and put yourself out there. But remember people can only meet you as deeply as they meet themselves.

No matter who you are, you’ve probably experienced the depths of loneliness at some point in your life. If you are feeling lonely, remember, this too shall pass. If you are willing to do your part. It’s no wonder that loneliness can be an unhappy feeling, because most people enjoy other people’s company, and feeling connected with those who are important in our lives. Addressing your loneliness could be the key to unleashing your healthy mind.

I believe with a little ingenuity we can all have the relationships we want and need.

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822
etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

 

counseling, psychology, self-help

Managing Stress During the Holiday Season: It’s the Most Wonderful AND Stressful Time of the Year!

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Do you get stressed-out around the holidays? 

Thanksgiving is almost upon us which means the holiday season is about to be in full swing!

For many, this is their favorite time of year. Many look forward to the holidays and ending the year with a bang!

The holiday season can be full of joy and spending quality time with our loved ones…but it can also be stressful and full of angst. The holiday season is a time of year that often brings unwelcome visitors–anxiety, stress, and depression just to name a few–all of which can put a damper on one’s holiday spirit.

Stress is ever-present during the holiday season. And it’s no wonder. The holidays present a multitude of demands — demands we place on our self AND demands placed on us by others.

We spend endless hours devoting much time to decorating, shopping, baking, gift wrapping, cleaning, and entertaining. Unrealistic expectations run rampant during the time of year. Just trying to stay within one’s budget can be stressful in and of itself.

It is the most wonderful and EXPENSIVE time of the year!

During this time of year, people often resort to bad habits—they may overindulged in sweet and sugar cravings, dip into the booze and pharmaceuticals, and live on cup after cup of caffeine filled drinks such as coffee and soda to power through their never-ending to-do list.

Emotions can be all over the place. You may feel annoyed by meddling relatives, experience bouts of loneliness,  miss loved ones who are no longer with you, or lose patience with your children over their endless requests and demands.

Stress and depression can ruin your holidays and hurt your mental health. Being realistic, planning ahead, and seeking support can help ward off stress and depression.

Below are some strategies for managing the stress of the holidays:

1)Stay connected. As families change and grow, you may not all be able to be together on the holidays. People live on different coasts, other loved ones may spend time with their in-laws, and schedules may not allow everyone to be together in ONE place. Give people a call, send holiday cards, and do your best to stay connected even if you cannot physically be together. If you want to stay connected you need to do your part as well to stay in touch–even a simple “Missing you, thinking of you” text can go a long way to letting the people in your life know you care.

2)Don’t blow your budget–you can’t buy happiness for yourself OR anyone else. Design a budget and stick to it. How much you spend is NOT a reflection of how much you care. Don’t be fooled into thinking you have to go big (big meaning expensive) on presents to make loved ones happy. It truly is the thought that counts.  The best presents to give are experiences–give loved ones Groupons such as to a paint class night or to try a cooking class.

3)Take care of YOU. Often during the holidays we are so focused on doing for others. It is also a trying time of year on us physically AND mentally— the days begin getting darker and colder (unless you live in a tropical climate-then LUCKY YOU), we eat more, drink more, sleep less, and are generally more busy. It is the recipe for the perfect storm on our emotional and mental well-being. Try not to abandon ALL your healthy habits. Try to get the proper amount of sleep, get some exercise in, and watch your diet during the work week. Don’t let the holidays be a free for all on your health. Come January 1st you WILL regret it.

4)Learn to say no. You do not have to attend every party you are invited to. You do not have to host your mother-in-law’s third cousins you never met before. You don’t have to drive to three different places on Christmas to not disappoint. Slow it down. Don’t allow the holiday season to run you ragged. Saying yes when you want to say no leaves you feeling overwhelmed and resentful. Nothing merry about that!

5)Lower your expectations. Cut yourself some slack. Cut others some slack as well. We are all doing the best we can. Things do not need to be perfect to be fun. Try for good enough and focus your attention on the real meaning of the holidays. Don’t let your annoying, crazy uncle get on your last nerve at the dinner table–this is why Jesus turned water into wine. Have a glass of red (heart health AND antioxidants), scoop on the salad, and try to have fun!

It is important to take control of the holidays before they take control of YOU.

Don’t let the holidays become something that spikes your stress levels to the max. Instead, take steps to prevent stress and depression that can arise during the holidays. Learn to recognize your triggers. Perhaps you worry about your family’s budget or demands placed on you. Stay mindful and take some time to RELAX. Keep in mind self-imposed demands tend to be especially tough, so try your best to mitigate the stress before it leads to a meltdown.

Even if you’re a easy going, laid back person, the holiday season can still be a trying time. Your stress level can go through the roof. Don’t be afraid to talk to a mental health professional if the holiday season has you feeling down or having a difficult time. A therapist can help you improve your coping skills so you can tap into the joy and peace that is all around you–and within you.

Happy Holidays!

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822
etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com