BLOGGING BEHAVIORAL



LISTEN IN AS AN AUSTIN PSYCHOLOGIST TALKS ABOUT CBT - COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY

December 6, 2010

Have Yourself a More Relaxed Holiday Season

For one reason or another I check in on my blog this evening.  I see that I haven't posted in over a month.  A month!  My goal is to post every two weeks at the very minimum.

Yes, Virginia, even behavioral psychologists fall short of their goals.  More often than some of us would like to admit, surely.  

A goal I've set for myself over the past few years has to do with the busy holiday season. From the time the Halloween costume box comes down from the attic it feels as though the speed of life is cresting over the highest peak of a roller coaster ride.  Gaining rapid momentum with no chance to get out of the cart or make it stop until January 1st.  But then it's time to put away the decorations and think about one of the least favorite times of year:  tax season.

My goal?  To do less.  To shop less.  To let go to some holiday traditions so that I can better enjoy others.  Stress less.  Relax more.


People resoundingly complain about the all-consuming demands of the holiday season.  Recently a friend of mine proclaimed it has gotten to the point where she "hates" Christmas.  An honest and brave friend.  After all, it's downright un-American to make such a statement.  Un-human, even.  

Bah humbug. 

The reality is we all have choices when it comes to holiday traditions.  Whether it be adorning our homes with lights and decorations, sending seventy-five Christmas cards and photos in the mail, baking sugar cookies from scratch, entertaining guests with a punchbowl full of homemade eggnog, singing carols, setting up the train set, hosting large family gatherings around a lavish home cooked meal, hustling over to the in-laws for a second lavish home cooked meal, attending midnight church service, or driving all over town to find just the right gift for loved ones even if it means spending ourselves into debt, we all retain the right to put a stop to the annual practice of wearing ourselves to a frazzle.  

So let's try a little CBT, shall we?

A typical rationalization and automatic negative thought might sound something like this:  

"But it wouldn't be Christmas/Hannuka if I didn't ______ (fill in the blank)." 

A healthy cognitive replacement involves challenging our long held beliefs and rationalizations.  The holidays are not just about our hand made hot tamales (a Mexican-American tradition), are not just about the gifts we give, are not just about the decorations and the lights. These are mere details that add tinsel and sparkle to the true meaning of the season. 

No, the holidays are really about ... what exactly?  

This is where you get to step in and express your own individual sentiments.  What do the holidays mean to you specifically?  Which traditions can you give yourself permission to let go of so that you are free to enjoy the true meaning of the season as it applies to you?   So that you can spend quality time with your family or friends or community and not be too busy to slow down and really appreciate what you've got in life. Or where you want to be.

In cognitive behavioral therapy a replacement thought might sound something like this:  

"I choose to let go of _____, _____, and _____ so that I can be more relaxed."

"I can get more out of the holidays this year by deciding to ______ rather than ______."  

"I want to more fully embrace the meaningful elements of my holiday.  This year I plan to _____ and not _____ so that I am free to devote more time to ______ instead."

Notice I wrote "this year" as opposed to forever because it's best to take it one year at a time.  Next year, who knows?  You can always revise or alternate traditions.  

So there you go, readers.  The framework of change is there.  You get to fill in the blanks.  Give it a try.

Another goal of mine this holiday season?  To give myself permission to post less often.  Maybe not until next year!

Now go and have yourself a more relaxed, more meaningful holiday season.