We are in the heart of the holiday season and although we get a lot of messaging about this being a joyful time to spend with loved ones, it is often mixed with anxiety, depression and stress.

At this time of year my practice is busy. Often spending time with extended family can be difficult. Past grievances flair back up, old patterns of behavior reappear and we are often drinking more, sleeping less and feeling financially strained … which adds to our difficulty coping.

So how do you get through this season a little more gracefully? First, by acknowledging that holidays are difficult for people. Some people are struggling with the death loss of a loved one or dealing with families that argue, are distant or are hyper-critical. Some families have been divided by politics, religion and sexuality. Having awareness of the dynamics and reasonable expectations can help you be better prepared for the events. And if the divisions are too big and family get togethers aren’t happening, finding people and community you do connect with is important. Seeking out your “tribe”, people who you enjoy spending time with.

Being aware of what you are eating, drinking and how you are scheduling your time. You will feel better if you are putting good food in your body and getting adequate sleep, so try to make this a priority. This time of year can be incredibly busy or if your community and/or network is small it can feel very isolating. If you are doing too much, find some ways to make down time for yourself. Say “no” to a few events or give yourself permission to go for a shorter period of time. If the issue is feeling isolated, reach out to a few people. They may just assume you have other things going on. Finding ways to get out of the house and being really mindful of social media at this time if you’re feeling isolated and alone. If social media helps to connect you to others great, but more often it makes people feel critical of themselves and creates negative comparisons to what others are doing.

Finally, just recognizing that this season is difficult for a lot of people – you are not alone. The commercials you see, the social media that gets posted, the holiday cards that get sent don’t capture the duality of the season. We tend to focus on the “ideal” images, but families are inherently messy. We can love our families and be overwhelmed and frustrated at the same time. So this season is especially important to be kind to yourselves and others around you. Recognize the struggle, take care of yourself and do something kind and giving to others when you can … it will help you feel more generous and positive about yourself.