The holiday season is supposed to be the time of year when everything is sparkly and joyful. But instead, many people experience a lot of stress around the holidays. Some people even dread the holiday season because they’ve gotten to a point where they don’t see it as fun or joyful any longer.
When working with your wellness coaching clients, you’ll hear about their stress levels during the holidays. There will be complaints about being too busy and spending too much money. They might even have to spend time with people they don’t like. This is a perfect opportunity for a wellness coach. You can help your clients learn to transform their ways of dealing with stress during an important season.
Why We Stress Around the Holidays
Before you can help your clients tame the stress tiger, it’s important to understand what might be triggering their negativity. When we were children, the holidays were magical and bright. But as we became adults, we started to take on the expectations of our society. This can add layers of unmet expectations, disappointments, and overwhelming stress.
Reasons We Get Stressed
- We overbook. Everyone and their Aunt Sally is having a holiday party, so we feel obligated to say ‘Yes’ to each invitation. We even think we need to host our own parties, sign the kids up for every activity, and attend every community event. Pretty soon we’re drowning in an overbooked schedule and not enjoying a single minute of it.
- We overgive. As the holidays have become more and more commercialized, the piles of presents have grown exponentially. We have long lists of things to buy for everyone in the family, including the uncle we haven’t seen in 5 years. Besides all the presents, there are the holiday treats to deliver, the service projects to do, and the soup kitchen to volunteer in. We just give, give, give until we want to hide in a closet and never come out again!
- We overplan. People tend to think they can do far more in a short amount of time than they actually can do. We want the holidays to be extra special and so we try to do everything. Traditions are important, but we add to the list of things we “must” do every year, causing ourselves more stress than is necessary.
- We overdo. All of the things we create, plan, make, buy, attend, host, and support eventually take a toll. We begin to dread the holidays because they just feel more overwhelming than they’re worth. In reality, it’s our expectations and what we think society expects us to do that causes this overdoing and overwhelm.
What to Do to Help
The holidays can actually be a very special time of year. Looking back over the past century or so, we know that social norms have drastically changed. In the past, holidays were celebrated far more simply and, it seems, with greater enjoyment. This modern stress epidemic is new and isn’t necessary for an enjoyable season.
The first thing to do to help your clients is to actually help yourself. As all wellness coaches know, you can’t really recommend something to your client that you’re not also doing yourself. You have to have gone through the process of healing and changing so that you know what it’s like.
Take the time to assess your own holiday traditions and work on your stress levels. Do you end up feeling resentful or bitter during the holidays? Find the source and work on correcting it. Do you let that frustrating family member cross your boundaries in ways you shouldn’t? Remind yourself of what makes you feel healthy when you’re around other people and make sure to enforce that when you’re around extended family too! Heal your own issues with overextending yourself during the holidays first. Then you’ll be ready to tackle this challenge with your clients.
Healthy Boundary Tools
When it comes to working with your clients, make it clear to them that this is a wellness issue. Stress brings down our physical and mental health, making our experience of life less enjoyable. And who really wants to just “make it through” the holidays? Our time is precious and even the holidays should be an experience that matches our wellness values.
Here are a few activities you can do with your clients to help them create a new experience this holiday season.
- Help them plan ahead. When you know what’s ahead and you’ve got a clear plan for how you want it to go, it makes it easier to stay on course. This plan can look whatever way works for you and your client. Whether it’s a plan for the specific events they’ll attend, a budget for how much they’ll spend, or how they’ll handle situations with negative family members (or all of the above!), it can help them feel more optimistic about how their season experience will unfold.
- Help them to set limits. Part of creating wellness in our lives is setting limits for ourselves. When things get “out of control,” we begin to feel like we’re on a downward spiral and start to feel disempowered. By setting limits for the season, your client can take back the control, identify the limits that make them the most comfortable and plan for a holiday season that is actually fun again.
- Help them to choose what they enjoy most. Often, we bury ourselves in activities during the holidays, even the ones we don’t particularly like. We think we have to do it all. But in reality, this creates a cluttered experience that covers up the enjoyment of the activities we actually do love. By helping your clients to pick the activities that they derive the most joy from, you’ll help them to remember that childlike love for the season that they thought they had lost.
- Help them to simplify. The holidays are a serious consumerism-based season. But we all know that buying more stuff and participating in unloved experiences won’t make us happy. By choosing to buy and participate in things that are truly meaningful, we start to feel more alive again. Help your clients to understand this concept so they can let go of the need to bury their feelings through shopping trips. Teach them that simplicity will bring them more enjoyment during the season. Help them choose which events, gifts, and experiences will be the most important to them and create boundaries so they’ll stick to their new simple holiday experience.