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Holiday Advice from Windhorse Counselors

It can be the most stressful time of the year! With the holiday season in full swing, many of us may be feeling the weight of family dynamics, seasonal stressors, disrupted routines, and more, leaving us depleted and anxious.

The good news? It's normal!

We all experience increased stress this time of year and our counselors are here to help! Take a look below as a few of our counselors share tips, recommendations, and resources to help you stay present, find joy and rest, and recenter this season.

Gift-giving does not have to be stressful and cause financial burdens

"Please consider switching the narrative to thoughtful handwritten cards, a small container of homebaked treats; or a donation to a meaningful cause. Discuss your thoughts ahead of time with your family and friends. Most people will be relieved and a new tradition can begin!" -Ali

Maintain your usual routine as much as possible

"Morning walk, standard bedtime, your favorite workout class, your therapy appointment, your book club. Helping maintain what usually feels good and works for us can help keep our overall stress low with lots of changes that the holidays bring!" -Courtney

Create your own magic

"We are often filled with expectations of a big family gathering, with laughter and so many cousins and games and presents and connection, filled with warmth and love. But our family might be quite small and it doesn't feel like the movies. It can be a let down. We try to create something meaningful with what is, to create our own traditions and it takes some shifting to let go of what we think it should be. Find the magic in the small, the slow, the peacefulness." -Sara

Don't be afraid to set boundaries

"Running the holiday gauntlet can wear down even the most cheerful and chipper among us, and if you've some tender edges around food and family, from November through January can seem daunting at best.

The maxim, "eyes on your own plate" has gotten quite a bit of use now on the old interwebs, but the essential truth of it remains: you've the right to nourish your own lovely self as you see fit. There can be a quiet glory in reminding yourself of your own hard-won agency in those jagged moments when Uncle Mike nags you to have a drink you don't want, or your mother makes that face when you reach for the mashed potatoes, or your still beloved spouse insists that the Turkey Trot is tradition and you have to run it. Boundaries are, above all else, a kind of love we show others and that we show ourselves.

A calm assertion ("I'm good, Mike, still finishing my seltzer," "I know, mom, they're that good, right?" "Honey, I'd be thrilled to carry a dry sweatshirt for you, and I can't wait to hug you at the finish line") can often (not always, but often) be enough to carry you (and everyone else) through to the next moment.

Take breaks in the bathroom. Drink water. Don't make any big decisions when tired or hungry." -Jen

If you are going to a holiday function that may be fraught: be prepared!

"Think ahead of time about how to take care of yourself and what steps you can take to enjoy the time. Will another relative be there to support you? Could you bring music you enjoy, go for a walk to gather yourself, keep a journal to write your challenges down?

And alternatively, do you HAVE to go to the function? Could you do something else you would prefer with others you would prefer to do it with? We cannot change how people are - we can only change how we respond to them. It is appropriate to not attend holiday gatherings that feel unsafe, toxic, or leave you depleted.

If you feel you do have to go, limit the amount of time you are there and make a plan for yourself after to reward yourself and practice self-care. Please consider going with someone who can offer you support." -Ali

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