Oh there’s no place like stress for the holidays

Everywhere I go right now a majority of people–myself included–are at an elevated level of stress.  I see this tangible energy everywhere that nobody knows what to do with.   Partly it is because of the early dark nights and winter chill.  But really, I am stressed that another year has come and gone, that there is so much to do with so little time, and that everyone around me seems to be feeling it too.

I don’t know about you, but this year I am feeling anxious about the fact that I don’t know exactly why I am so overly anxious.  I keep feeling like I have to find the perfect reason or answer as to why at this time of year I am highly distractible, lacking motivation, and sometimes downright irritable.  The pressure for perfection in everything this time of year is intense.  For instance, when I was trying to think of topics for this blog, I started to go a little nuts.  I was putting so much pressure on myself to make it just right, instead of just writing about what I was thinking and feeling in the moment.

I find myself getting so caught up in creating the perfect holiday experience.  Do I have that perfect gift that will put a smile on someones face because they can’t believe I thought of it?  I have this idyllic picture in my head of the perfect tree and the presents expertly wrapped underneath.  There is something  very wrong with this picture: that’s not what is truly important to me.  Instead of worrying about the perfect gift, I would much rather spend quality time with those that I love.  So now I am telling myself the same thing I tell my clients: “Enjoy this time, treasure it.”

When you ask most people how they are doing right now, they give you a polite answer about how they are looking forward to the holidays and looking forward to seeing family etc, but they also still need to do shopping, clean the house and such.  At my monthly book club this was the case all around!  The “but” of their answer is where the truth really lies!  Nobody–including myself–seems to just want to come out and say what they are truly feeling.  If I express any negative feelings at all, then it makes me seem like a Scrooge.  But it’s okay to be excited and stressed at the same time.  In fact, these things often go hand in hand.  The more we look forward, the less opportunity we have to experience the present and process what is really going on with us.  Not being able to sit back and take stock is exhausting!

I honestly feel sad that I have gotten so caught up in the stress of this time.  I miss the years where I never heard or saw the “but” of someone’s response BUT I’m too trained and experienced now as a counselor to miss it.  So I am working on finding a balance, as I think we all should.  I need to feel the stress and be motivated to get things done BUT I also need to take a moment for myself.  I need to curl up on my couch with some coffee while my holiday decorations are shining and watch “Christmas Vacation” with the people I love.  So that is what I am going to do right now.  I wish all of you a very special holiday and a happy new year!