The holidays are usually a time of year for joy and celebration, but for many it causes added stress, anxiety, or depression. This year is even more challenging – we’re dealing with a global pandemic. As the Covid-19 virus still poses a threat, we’re all being forced to adapt, create new traditions, and manage relationships. We have to figure out how to celebrate the holidays while social distancing, wearing masks, and protecting ourselves, elderly relatives, and those who are immune-compromised. On top of all of this, how do you handle having stressful parents? Sometimes it feels like just too much. Here are some tips to help you survive the holiday season, improve your relationship with your parents or caregivers, and find inner peace.
Why Is Your Relationship With Your Parents Stressful?
Identify the specific cause of stress so you can work towards eliminating it and improving your relationship through healthy boundary setting. Do your parents still treat you like a child and not view you as an adult? Are they verbally abusive? Do they constantly criticize you, your partner, or your work? Are they overstepping their boundaries now that you’re an adult and feel like they can talk to you as “friends” and go into detail about their relationships and personal life?
If you are a caregiver for your aging parents and their mental and physical health are declining, it can cause unhealthy levels of stress and impact your everyday life. While it is responsible and loving to take care of your parents, it can become problematic if you’re neglecting your own needs and other responsibilities. It will always be stressful to take care of aging parents, but it’s important for your own well-being to get support, learn coping skills, and practice self-care.
The holidays can trigger stress and anxiety in a good year, but this year is even more challenging because of the pandemic. If your parents are refusing to be flexible and want to keep up with the traditions, it can put you and them at risk. Are they pressuring you to come to large gatherings or not wear a mask? It can be incredibly stressful if you and your parents have differing viewpoints when it comes to how to celebrate the holidays during this pandemic.
What Are Some Positive Aspects of Your Relationship with Your Parents?
After you’ve identified what is causing the stress when it comes to your parents, think about what brings joy to the relationship (if anything). Does the relationship add anything positive to your life? Do they provide love, guidance, affection, or support? If you can’t answer “yes” to any of these questions, this might be a sign that the relationship needs some adjustments. What are your priorities and values? How does the relationship support or interfere with them? If the relationship offers nothing positive and only stress or verbal and emotional abuse, that’s not OK. Something needs to change or the chronic stress will consume your life.
Set Boundaries & Stick to Them
It’s important to know your limit and when “enough is enough.” If you feel overwhelmed by hosting or going to a party, don’t do it! Tell your friends or family members that you don’t feel comfortable going to large gatherings right now. If you want to create new traditions, you are allowed to. Tell your parents that you don’t think it’s safe to keep up with old traditions this year, and that you can do them next year. Do what’s right for you and don’t feel pressured into doing something that sacrifices your mental health and puts you at risk of compromising your general health.
Don’t feel guilty about whatever decisions you make. Don’t force yourself to do something you’re not comfortable with. Feel comfortable with the limits or boundaries you’ve set. If it causes you to be sad or more stressed, don’t do it. If your plan isn’t working, these limits and boundaries can change. They don’t have to be permanent. The whole point is to reduce stress on your end so you can be happier, healthier, and more productive.
I know it’s challenging to try to maintain a good relationship with your parents while trying to celebrate holidays this year. Tell them how you feel and what they can do to help. Empower them to help create new traditions. If they are receptive and insightful, they might be willing to make changes. You can set rules and boundaries, letting your parents know it’s for the best in order to preserve, and even improve, the relationship, and keep all of you safe. Conflict and resentment will only add more stress to the relationships we value as well.
It’s easy to forget to make time for self-care, especially during the holidays. We are often so focused on others, we put our own needs aside. Are you not eating well? Not sleeping enough? Are you focusing too much on your relationship with your parents? Are you giving them too much of your time while neglecting yourself or your children or marriage? Do they demand too much of your time? Are you sacrificing your safety to try to find normalcy this holiday season?
One of the best ways to avoid the stress and anxiety of the holidays is to take care of yourself. Be in tune with what your body and mind are telling you. If you start to feel stressed or anxious, take some time to relax. You can go to therapy, meditate, do yoga, exercise, read, or whatever helps keep you stay calm and focused. Celebrate the holidays by celebrating yourself!
This current way of life is still new, so we have to create the structure needed to find peace in all of this. This can be done by knowing the importance of and practicing compassion and kindness towards others, ourselves, and the world around us. This might also mean not seeing your family in-person for the holidays to keep all of you safe. Tell your parents what your priorities are, and let them know you intend to start taking care of yourself, which may mean spending less time with them physically and celebrating the holidays a little differently this year.
Online Therapy Can Help You Feel Less Stressed & Stay Safe
If you have stressful parents and find this overwhelming, if you’re scared to say no to your parents, or if you need help making time for self-care, teletherapy can help you feel empowered and a little less stressed so you can enjoy the season. Dr. Heather Violante can help you get to the root of the relationship problems, improve your communication, assist you with setting and enforcing boundaries, and help you find a solution that is beneficial for all of you. Contact her online or call (954) 391-5305 (EXT. 8) to learn more about how therapy – even by video – is a great way to feel less overwhelmed and more in control during this pandemic.