November 2014
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Hello Readers,

It's that time of year again. I wonder how many of us look forward to the holidays with anticipation and excitement. On the other hand, how many of us pretend the holidays simply aren't coming, until they are suddenly here. I suspect that for those of us in the latter group we do so with the knowledge that in previous years our hopeful anticipation of peaceful family time has often given way to frenzied activity and stress.

In this month's feature article I suggest a few ways to reduce the stress of the holidays so you can better enjoy your family time. Then take the quiz to find out if you are practicing good self-care. If not, you'll find a few ideas to help you get started.

The holidays are an especially good time to say thank you. So I would like to take the opportunity to say how grateful I am to you for taking the time to read these monthly messages. I hope you have found some helpful ideas to help you flourish.

Best wishes in the weeks ahead for a peaceful time with the people you love most.

Holidays: Here They Are, Ready Or Not

So, has it happened again this year? You looked up and suddenly "the holidays" were upon you. Regardless of which holidays we observe, what we have in common during this time of year is increased stress. Stress can come from many sources, including crammed calendars, end-of-the-year deadlines and stretched budgets. But stress can also come from family. As much as we may look forward to spending time with the loved ones we may not have the opportunity to see throughout the year, having everyone together with competing needs and expectations can cause tension.

These bits of wisdom may be coming a little late for Thanksgiving, but keep them in mind to help you successfully navigate the rest of your holiday season:

1) Young children usually do better at home. If there are young children in your family, consider celebrating at one of their homes. It will be easier for everyone if kids have age appropriate activities and toys at their disposal. On the other hand, it will be stressful for kids and adults alike if grandma's beloved, fragile mementos must be guarded throughout the visit.

2) Take a break from your guests. If you are hosting out of town guests, try to plan for time apart. Everyone will benefit from a break. Suggest some activities your guests might enjoy. If you are hosting guests and preparing the holiday meal, ask that they take your children with them so you have some uninterrupted time to prepare. If asking your guests to leave your house for a while is too uncomfortable, schedule a time for you to be out.

3) You don't have to be perfect. Remember that even Norman Rockwell didn't live in a Norman Rockwell painting. It is fine to want your house to be tidy and ready for company, but don't wear yourself thin trying to create the "perfect" atmosphere. Your family has come to spend time with you. If you are exhausted and irritated you won't enjoy your family and it is unlikely they will have fun either.

4) See the best in your family. Lastly, try to assume the best of your family members. I know that many family relationships are difficult and have histories too complicated to address in a newsletter. But, if we don't allow that history to color all our interactions, we may find we can lighten up and enjoy the visit. Perhaps your aunt's suggestions aren't critical and intrusive but well intended and even useful. Maybe your brother-in-law isn't weird and annoying but quirky and interesting. Go ahead. Put on the rose-colored glasses. They're festive if nothing else.

5) Take care of yourself. Eat healthfully, get plenty of rest (schedule it in), exercise, and drink lots of water. Remember to breathe deeply, relax, and try to have fun (schedule that last part in too). Find some time for yourself. Find a place where you can be quiet and restful. Take a walk and breathe in the fresh air. Look around you, notice nature's response to the season and let yourself be amazed.

I hope these suggestions will help you to enjoy the holiday season. However you celebrate, may this season be peaceful and joy-filled for each one of you. I am always here to help you navigate through this season, or any other. Give me a call anytime.
How Well Do You Care For Yourself During The Holidays?

During the holidays, self-care is vital, but too often we put ourselves last or choose unhealthy coping measures. Answer these true/false questions to discover how well you care for yourself during these often-stressful times.

True or False?

Set 1

1. Although it doesn't really help, when I'm stressed, I self-soothe by over-indulging in food and alcohol.

2. I get caught up in the frenzy of my "to do" list and self-care is the first thing I take off of it.

3. It's easy for me to spin out of control worrying about making the holidays great for everyone.

4. I can't face my friends and family when things don't go as planned; I tend to isolate.

5. Shame and blame take over when things go badly; I either feel it's my fault or someone else's.

6. During the holidays, I feel immobilized and depressed.

7. In the midst of the holidays, I lose perspective and have a hard time focusing on what truly matters.

Set 2

1. No matter what happens, I stay on track with my self-care routines.

2. Caring for myself includes asking for and receiving help from others.

3. I have tools to help keep myself positively focused.

4. No matter how busy the holidays get, I take the time to do things that make me feel better, such as working out, getting a massage, spending time in nature.

5. I stay focused on the positive, supportive people in my life and try to ignore negativity and criticism.

6. If plans go awry or things become difficult, I remind myself of the meaning of the holidays.

7. I trust myself to be able to handle whatever comes my way.

If you answered true more often in Set 1 and false more often in Set 2, you may want to consider getting some extra support during the holidays. I am available to guide you in your efforts to care for yourself, during the holidays, or at anytime.

Author's content used with permission, © Claire Communications
Barbara is a psychotherapist with over 20 years of experience helping individuals and couples to achieve happier, more fulfilling lives. She assists clients to better understand themselves, improve their relationships and develop more effective responses to life's problems. Barbara works with adults confronting all types of challenges but is especially skilled at helping survivors of trauma.

Barbara always welcomes the opportunity to work with new clients.
Barbara Hill, LCSW-C
6236 Montrose Road
Rockville, MD 20852
Phone: (301) 340-3050