Contributed by: Brady Smith, MSW, LCSWA

Let’s just put it out there: holidays are stressful for everyone. Whether you’re spending time with loved ones, trying to enjoy a nonexistent break from school/work, or being pulled in what seems like a million directions from all the attractions and lights; a lot goes on this time of year. This doesn’t even count the random day-to-day issues that unexpectantly pop up at the worst times. With so much on our plates this time of year (besides the mountain of homemade sweets!), how does someone manage everything? Or more importantly, how can we be ok with NOT doing everything?

Don’t be afraid to say no

With so much going on, often it’s expected to attend every holiday gathering and experience all the memories that don’t get shared on social media. And for each story that we hear second hand, we wish we could’ve been there to see it in person. The fear of missing out is strongest this time of year. We realize that, and often overbook our schedules to avoid this fear. Additionally, one might feel pressured to attend certain events because others expect our attendance. The perceived backlash from not showing up can force one in an uncomfortable situation. So how can we choose what to attend, but also maintain our relationships?

How to regulate yourself

Remember that you control what you do and how you plan your holiday schedule. Not your friends. Not your family. And certainly not what you see online or on TV. When we allow others to dictate our thoughts, actions, and beliefs; this is called having an external locus of control. While we want to be flexible to others, planning our lives around others proves exhausting this time of year. Ideally, we want to have an internal locus of control as this allows us to set healthy boundaries while respecting our personal needs and beliefs. For those who struggle to find this, here are some tips you can use this holiday season:

· Think before you commit to anything! Saying no is ok

· It’s ok to cancel on plans later if something comes up. We can’t plan ahead for everything!

· Set limits on what you do! This can involve how long you are there for, what you feel comfortable talking about, who you interact with, etc.

· Traditions are important, but not as much as you may think. Talk to those important to you if these can be altered to best fit your needs.

· Plan ahead some coping skills! Holidays are stressful, so have some go-to skills in your back pocket that you can use if needed.

· Find ways to enjoy yourself! It’s ok to take a break if you get overwhelmed.

With everything that goes on this time of year, we can easily overlook our own limits. Find some time this holiday season to look after yourself and do the activities that you find important. This allows for those moments we share with others to hold even greater memories!