196. When The Holidays Feel Hard (stress, anxiety, loneliness, overspending, transitions)- tips from a Counsellor

I asked listeners to share the tough scenarios they expect to encounter during the holidays and Christmas. I will start with Part 1, going through the themes of scenarios and sharing an idea on a shift you can try to make this season, from a counsellor’s perspective.  The goal is to give you some tools on how to handle the reality that life can still be hard and things can feel tough, especially around this time of year.


The interview with Brandi Hofer of Colour Me Happy Community 


Main topics covered in this episode:



Hey friends, it’s Shawna Scafe, your nerdy girlfriend and counsellor from simple on purpose.ca I thought I would add my last name in there because I never say it and you’re probably reading it and don’t really know how to pronounce it. So nice to meet you guys. My Instagram used to be Shawna Scafe. But the way it was written everyone thought it was Sean is cafe. And people were genuinely wondering where my cafe was. And that would be so dreamy to have a cafe so but I don’t, I don’t have a cafe. So I just changed my instagram name to simple on purpose. Anyways, here you are, you’re at the simple and purpose podcast. Welcome. And today has been a really busy day. This morning, I did an interview with brandy Hofer. She is a Canadian artist. She’s a muralist. She’s a portrait artist. She’s an educator, she’s a speaker, and I have followed her work for actually a lot of years now. And I just love her work. It’s so beautiful. It’s like a feast for the heart. It’s just so wonderful. And I recently had commented on one of her Instagram posts, and she wrote me right back, and she asked me to come on your podcast, which was so cool. On one hand to be asked, because I just admire her so much. And on the other hand to realize she had a podcast, I hadn’t missed that in the Instagram algorithm. So I said, Yes, I started listening to her podcast, it’s called Color Me happy, which is also the name of her book that I just ordered. I’m excited about it. Because the more you talk to her and the more you listen to her podcast, the more you see just how have a real deal. She is like genuine, honest, open and passionate, like you can feel her passion for what she does, and for empowering other women. So her podcast is about being a community for motherhood and art, you don’t have to be an artist to listen to it really like I listened to it. And it’s women talking about issues that women deal with in different areas of entrepreneurship and motherhood. So I’m gonna link her in the show notes, I recommend following her everywhere, and getting your book in follow your podcasts, especially because she’s Canadian. And we let just love fellow Canadians around here, don’t we? So then, after I did that, I went to put on my long johns, because there’s snow here today walk down to my kids school, because they’re all in the same school this year. And because they’re in the same school, I thought I should probably help out, I should be more involved. So I signed up to become a noon hour supervisor, which as I say it, I’m like, you could have done other things. But this is what we chose. Because I knew there was a little bit of a gap there that some more supervision was needed on one certain day of the week. It has come with some reluctance from my kids, for sure. And if I’m honest for me, too, but today, I went down first time went to learn the ropes. And the bonus of all of this is a couple of my besties work there. So I’m gonna get to see them more often. And I just hope it all outweighs the hard parts, right? hard enough. There’s going to be hard and awesome. Moving on to the issues of today. winter holidays coming up, whatever you’re celebrating, whatever background you have, whatever celebrations you partake in, at this time of year, it most likely involves some get togethers, some parties, family events, and all of that naturally comes with expectations, expectations on what it should look like, what it should feel like what you should be doing what you shouldn’t be doing. And in my young, 41 years of living and spending hours talking with people and hearing the things away on them. I know just enough to say that the holidays do not always feel good. They don’t always look like they should they don’t feel like they should. But we live in this culture where we’re fed that steady stream of Hallmark Christmas perfection everything works out and twinkly warm cheese commercials where families are laughing together in their sweaters and those stock photos of smiling couples sipping in their coffees in front of the fire. Like everything we’re bombarded with, it just doesn’t leave much permission to feel mad at Christmas, or lonely or sad or grief or disappointed overwhelmed, annoyed, anxious. These feelings still exist at this time of year. And my very wise supervisor has reminded me these feelings are often magnified this time of year. Here today, I wanted to offer you a place to talk about the reality that Christmas holidays whenever you’re celebrating does not always feel good. And I want to offer you a few ways to approach this season. What I did was I asked the Facebook group and I asked on Instagram for women to share topics that feel hard around this time of year. And I feel like there was such a range, really real and relatable situations that were shared. I would love to go in depth on each and every situation in you probably by accident I probably will but I’m going to touch on each one

For short, of course, we won’t solve all the situations in 120 minute podcast with some ideas in it. Or even in one Christmas, really, because this is years of history, relationships, roles, habits, coping and pain. And it takes a lot of time, a lot of intention, a lot of awareness, a lot of practice and work to reconcile these things. But that being said, my aim here is to offer you one simple shift one thing to focus on the season one different way to show up a different approach. And I’m going to just share ideas, I’m going to share ideas on things that could work in some of them might be a fit for you, some of them might not, maybe it’ll get you thinking about an alternative that could work for you. Because the goal here is to just try something, make one shift in the system. And really, we make that shift with us because we are the only ones in the system that we can intentionally make changes in. And ideally, if we start making shifts, maybe other shifts will happen in response over time. It’s always worth saying this episode is not a replacement for therapy. And I will let you know that I feel like these episodes are jam packed, it might take two parts, we’ll see I might do two episodes, they’re going to be jam packed, I’m going to try and load up the show notes to be a place where you can come and get a little bit of a bullet version of everything and additional resources, because so much of what we talk about here has been touched on other episodes that might be helpful for you. So stop by the show notes. If you want more. And you can always scroll down to the bottom of the show notes and read the full transcript as well. If you’d like to take your time with things, as we start this conversation about the things that feel hard at Christmas, I want to talk about what happens before the gathering or event or whatever even happens. And gearing up to the holidays, you might notice a lot of what’s called anticipatory anxiety, which is anxiety we get about that upcoming situation. And it might even be anxiety we feel about the anxiety we’re going to have, in my experience, a difficult part of anticipate anticipatory anxiety is that it changes how you show up now before the problem quote unquote problem has even happened. So it steals your presence and joy now, and then again later. A tip for you here is to pay attention. In the days and weeks leading up to whatever gathering or event, check how you’re feeling. How are you feeling right now? What are you thinking about? Are you worrying? Are you ruminating? Are you thinking about worst case scenario, if you can use worry, to make a plan that feels like it’s going to help you great, but if your worry is just keeping you stuck and suffering, that’s something to pay attention to. For me, I am usually not aware that I’m getting into the stage and tell I received some feedback from my husband that I’m on edge.

And if something is coming up, that is stressful for me, I have reduced capacity. I’m not fun to be around. And it will often take him pointing out to me, for me to even connect all of these dots and say, Oh, I’m not actually mad about what’s happening right here right now. That’s not the problem. But rather, the problem like underneath is the emotion of anxiety that I have. I’m feeling overwhelmed. We talked a lot about window of tolerance in the, in the past how much capacity we have to deal with something. And when I can say to myself, Okay, I’ve reduced capacity, because my capacity is being gobbled up by the anxiety of anticipating the anxiety. Everything’s irritating me, I have a short fuse, I’m being hard to be around, I am not being the person I want to be right now. And that amount of paying attention is often enough to give you your power back and give yourself a little break. Take a little break for yourself. let your family know, Hey, guys, I’m feeling stress. I’m going to take a minute, take your power back. So I want to talk on the topics that were shared. I’ve tried to group them into categories, so that I could share some advice on each one. And the first category is stress around the lack of your team. You know, it’s Christmas, you’re traveling, you might be staying at different places, eating different foods, there’s events happening at different hours of the day. And the routine is going to be disrupted. This sounds trivial, doesn’t it? Oh, well let them stay up. Let me do this. Let them do this. It’s Christmas. It sounds trivial. But it really is not. Especially if you have health issues with you or someone in the family if you are dealing with anxiety. If you’re managing kids, especially if you have kids with special needs or a baby like a baby that needs that routine, so they sleep through the night. It’s also an issue if you’re doing some work of grieving, which we’re going to touch on more later. Or if you’ve had adjustments in your family system. And as moms we’re often that routine keeper we know the routine we know what has to happen to keep things on track to keep them running smoothly. If we have the routine maintained, then like things will work out we almost need it for us to maintain our own capacity. Of course we can cling to it too much. Sometimes I covered that in an episode on

Controlling versus being capable. But if this is an issue on your plate this season, I would encourage you to acknowledge and honor that you actually want the routine and look for ways to still get it. Or at least some of the crucial parts, maybe you’ll be more relaxed on food, but you’ll focus on sleep. As a mums, a big part of this can be owning it. Sometimes we will let go of the routine and make others feel happy or comfortable. And then we get a little bit burnt out and resentful about it. So own it own, that you’re prioritizing this nap own that I’m going to head out early and get these kids to bed. Because if I don’t, I’m gonna lose my mind. Guys, I need my kids in bed next year will be different next year, we’ll stay a bit later, or maybe we’ll be back in the morning. We’re not leaving forever, like let’s help chill out. If it helps you as a mom to keep things on track, then own it and have your own back. Another interesting scenario that was shared is in relation to the expectations and the pressures that we put on Christmas. The scenario was shared with me of spending too much money to make Christmas feel good. And the words too much money are important because it indicates we’re exceeding the money available. The money we plan on spending, which gives us this negative outcome financially at the end of the season. And we don’t want to end up with that, right? I can relate to this scenario. And I think I feel it more as my kids get older. And they want those higher ticket items. And they are more aware of what their friends are getting. It’s so natural for them to compare. And I can even remember some Christmases that I as a kid felt let down, I didn’t get what I wanted or hoped for. Or the presents I did get. It didn’t feel like they were a fit for me. Like it didn’t reflect actually who I was or what I wanted, or even maybe fit me. And in my kid brain. It made me feel a little bit unknown and unseen. course as a parent. Now I look back differently on it. But I think it shows that it’s worth reflecting on our own experience and how it’s informing our approach to Christmas. Now, this can be a part of why we parent the way we do at Christmas time. The other part here is when it comes to making the magic at Christmas. It’s based on how we want our kids to feel or not feel are we Christmasing for if it’s a verb, or we Christmasing them from a place of lack, like things that didn’t feel like they were enough and we’re making up for it. Are we doing it from a place of discomfort that we can’t handle anyone possibly feeling even a little bit down on this event that you’re only supposed to feel good things, I could say I could tell you the standard advice, make a list, make a budget and stick to it. But those emotions of scarcity and fear that we’re going to see others be disappointed they’re going to override the logic of that. So this situation is really more about reconciling those emotions, the discomfort, the fear the scarcity and learning to tolerate them. That’s really the work to do here. I’m going to cover one more scenario. And then I’m going to wrap it up here and continue in the next episode on grief, and on family dynamics. This next scenario will be where we need to let hard things be hard. An example that was shared is I have great in laws, but I’m missing my family of origin. And that’s really hard to contrast those two conflicting emotions. If you’ve ever had Christmases away from your family, you know that it is a really lonely experience, I can remember living up north and being alone on Christmas away from my family, my husband was working. And I was just so sad. I listened to the Sarah McLaughlin album, A Song For winter’s night and lit candles and I cried.

It was really, really lonely. And a strategy I think that’s worth trying is Let it be hard. Let yourself be sad. If you can do something that honors the people you’re missing that honors maybe your family of origin, whether it’s making them a cool care package, trying to plan a FaceTime date, carrying on a tradition bringing it into the family or the people that you’re with, like bring them one of your traditions. And something that helped me when I was alone at Christmas was still finding a way to be around other people. There was extended family who would invite me for a dinner there was my friend who would take me to the Christmas Eve service with their family. There was opportunities to volunteer. So still getting out and getting involved. If you find yourself alone at Christmas can can just be a way to feel like you’re you have a little bit of a community you have some people around you. Other hard scenarios that this time of year can be if you’re in times of transition, a new baby, a new move a new job, those kinds of things that even if they were wanted, and you still wanted them. There’s still times transition times where they can rock our self concept, our routines, our stability or kappa

City, our identity. These are big letters, life events, where adjustments are rocky and uncomfortable and stressful and you aren’t really too sure if you’re doing it right in the moment. My advice here is if it feels hard, you could let hard things be hard. I would really encourage you to watch how you’re coping through this. They’ll pay attention. How are you acting in this scenario? Hurry, maybe you trying to compensate in this scenario? How are you coping in this scenario, often we find the things we’re trying to do to handle it can make the hard thing even harder. It helps also to shorten your window of focus and focus just on the short term, the stay this week, these two weeks of how you want to cope. And all in all, through all of that validate that adjustments are hard. Adjustments are hard. That’s why they’re called adjustments. It if it feels hard, it doesn’t always mean you’re doing it wrong, it often simply means you’re doing it. As you know, my aim is to keep these episodes short, so that you can just bring them into your day in small doses. I’m going to wrap this up here and I want to encourage you to check out the next episode where we’ll talk a little bit more about grief and boundaries and family dynamics and those kinds of fun things that can really make get togethers a little bit difficult. So hop on over whenever you’re ready for that one.


Leave a comment