I hope that everyone has been making the most of their holiday season. I know that this is way easier said than done for a lot of people. And, so that is why I wanted to take a bit of a break from my usual happy and cheerful content to address a more serious issue that affects many of us in today's society...And that is stress and overwhelm, particularly during the holidays.
Obviously, we often see the holidays depicted as a time of laughter, cheer, and festivities with family and friends, however we seldom see mainstream media acknowledge and further address the downside, which is the feeling of burnout that comes from trying to do everything from putting up the tree, decorating the house, shopping for presents, booking
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holiday photos, mailing out Christmas cards, and so on and so forth. Omg, I just got tired of thinking and listing all of those things alone! Not to mention, in the midst of all of that, many of us have to be fully present with work deadlines, holiday office parties, and squeezing in family & friend time. Being overwhelmed quickly becomes the understatement of the year.
And so, I thought what better way to address this notion than to meet with, and interview, my dear friend, expert, and licensed Psychotherapist, Mental Health Counselor, Koru Mindfulness Teacher, and Founder of Knot & Clover Therapy For Women, Alyssa Prete, who has graciously agreed to generously give us some tips on tackling the stress that comes with the holiday season or any season for that matter! Together we hope that our interview brings some awareness on the topic of stress and the anxiety that comes from burnout. We hope to shed some light on how to deal with said issue, and that you will leave with some helpful advice that you can apply in your own life to help you manage your own feeling of stress and anxiety.
1.) Stephanie: Bonjour Alyssa! Firstly, thanks so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule and your willingness to meet with me and provide my readers and myself with tips on how to deal with stress around the holidays. So, I already know that you're a licensed Psychotherapist with several degrees and titles under her belt. So therefore, it's quite safe to say that you know your stuff girl! But for those of us who may not be too familiar with what a Psychotherapist does...Do you mind elaborating on your profession just a little bit more for our readers?
Alyssa: It's my pleasure! You know I adore you, and I'm so excited and honored you asked me to do this! A psychotherapist or therapist, is a licensed professional who helps people experiencing emotional and mental health struggles through talk therapy or other types of therapy. We work with everything from everyday stress to depression and beyond. Therapists specialize in different types of therapy (various cognitive behavioral therapies or even body-focused therapies) as well as various issues (depression, anxiety, etc.). Therapists can also work with individuals, couples, and families. To specialize in various types of therapy, issues, or populations, it's important to attain additional and/or advanced training and certifications.
2.) Stephanie: Awesome, thanks so much for breaking it down! What initially sparked your interest and prompted you to go into this profession?
Alyssa: I was a highly sensitive child and I still am a highly sensitive person. When I was 10 years old, my family and I moved to another town, and I had a difficult time with the change. My mom asked my pediatrician if there was someone I could speak to and he recommended a child psychologist, Dr. Judy Hardy. Although I didn't like the idea at the time, she ended up completely changing my life and inspiring me to get into this profession. I saw her on and off through college and she always helped me with whatever I was going through at the time. She was such a nurturing, positive influence in my life, and I remember thinking that if I could help just one kid as much as she helped me, I'd feel pretty good and like it was all worth it. So here I am!
3.) Stephanie: What are the types of clients that you take on?
Alyssa: I love working with women! I really enjoy working with stress and burnout, anxiety and panic attacks, depression, work-life balance, relationships, self-esteem, life transitions, and- something you're very familiar with to say the least-wedding planning stress! Yes, even wedding planning can trigger lots of mixed emotions about family, self and body image, and other relationships. It can be a confusing time because women are under pressure from society and the media to look like the perfect bride and have their wedding be the best day of their lives. There's so much build up to "the big day" and sometimes women feel sad when it's over because the wedding took up so much of their time and focus and then it's all over. I'm so glad you do what you do for your clients because you definitely help keep them grounded! I'm also a certified mindfulness and meditation teacher so I like to incorporate these into my therapy.
4.) Stephanie: Wow, it's great to know that I am actually unconsciously helping brides with their mental health. I do promote lots of peace of mind with booking my services, because to me, that is everything! So thanks for that tidbit! So question...How does one identify the initial triggers of holiday stress & burnout before falling victim to a complete mental breakdown?
Alyssa: Ooohhh...Such an important question! I like to be proactive and plan ahead with my clients. As we come into the holiday season, we start talking about a "game plan," consisting of what they want their own holiday season to look like, how to navigate difficult relationships, how to say "no" and set boundaries, and how to make sure they're making time for self-care and the things that bring them joy. It's super important to engage in self-care and stress relieving behaviors every single day. I tell my clients to think about their stress as a temperature on a thermometer. We want to stop it from getting to a certain point each day, so that it doesn't get too high and difficult to reduce.
5.) Stephanie: What do you suggest one does once when they identify those triggers?
Alyssa: Make your game plan with your therapist, set boundaries, set realistic expectations, and show yourself compassion! Self-care and stress relieving behaviors around the holidays can consist of getting outside for vitamin D, taking a walk, setting a budget for gifts, journaling, meditating, having alone time and decompressing, and limiting time with people who are triggering. As silly as this sounds, your whole game plan probably won't go as planned! But it will help guide you and help you keep in mind what's important to you. Share your plan with trusted friends and loved ones and tell them if there's anything additional they can do to support you, such as coming up with a code word or phrase if you're around difficult family members at a party and it becomes too much. You can use your code word or phrase so your friend can run interference by distracting that person with conversation and going outside with you for a break and some fresh air.
6.) Stephanie: Ooohhh...That is sooo good! What are some suggestions for the people-pleasers who have a hard time saying NO and end up becoming way too in over their head with all the holiday commitments they have made?
Alyssa: Visualize what your ideal holiday season looks like then try to make decisions that align with that vision as much as possible. Ask yourself if saying yes to a commitment is bringing you closer to your vision or not. Recognize it's not selfish to say no and set boundaries. As hard as it can be, saying no is actually saying yes to your self-respect and it's actually kind to the people around you. Author and researcher Brene Brown says, "clear is kind." Saying yes, when you really want to say no, can make you feel resentful or angry or taken advantage of. This can affect how you treat the people around you, and they may not know how you're feeling. So only saying yes to events, asks, or people that you genuinely want to engage with, allows you and others around you, to enjoy the moment and experience together.
7.) Stephanie: That's such a great point...Can you suggest some ways that one can politely decline holiday invites without feeling bad or feeling like they have an obligation to attend certain events?
Alyssa: You can say things like,
"Thank you so much for the invitation, but unfortunately, I'm unable to attend. I hope you have a great time!"
"I'm sorry, I won't be able to make it. Thank you for the invite!"
"I have another commitment, otherwise I'd love to! Thank you for thinking of me."
"Unfortunately, I'm unavailable at that time. Have a wonderful holiday!"
It's also totally okay to just say, "no period," or "no," in your own way! You don't owe anyone anything and although you may feel guilty no matter how you say it, know that you're not doing anything wrong. It's important to protect your peace and take care of yourself.
8.) Stephanie: Omg...Your advice is literally GOLD! You seem to have it all together...How do you maintain an overall balance with your work, your lifestyle, and all of your holiday activities? And can you offer us some specific tips on how you de-stress during the holidays, but are still be able to enjoy it's perks (i.e. decorating the tree, watching Hallmark movies, & baking sugar cookies)?
Alyssa: Ha! Thanks girl but not at all! I'm figuring it all out with everyone else. I'm still working on it and I think it will always be an evolving, work in progress. Sometimes, one aspect of life might take more time or focus than another and that's okay! I honestly try very hard to practice self-compassion and not beat myself up for making mistakes or not doing everything to my standards. Many of us women have ridiculously high standards for ourselves that we wouldn't dare expect other people in our lives to live up to. So I try to be compassionate towards myself, and I try to be very boundaried with my time and energy. I'll use affirmations or sayings such as, "Someone else's urgency is not my emergency," and "I'm doing the best I can." In terms of activities...Walking and getting out in nature are amazing ways that I de-stress! I love animals and their energy is super calming so petting and playing with my dog always makes me laugh and smile. Specifically, for the holidays, do what brings you joy! Watch those Christmas movies, blast that Mariah, decorate however you like, and savor the season! Remember, it's only once a year and it comes and goes by so fast. Allow yourself to truly enjoy the parts you love and don't feel obligated to participate in the rest.
9.) Stephanie: This has been such a great and eye-opening interview! Again, thanks so much for meeting with me! For those who are interested in booking your professional services, where are you located and how do they contact you?
Alyssa: Thank you so much for chatting with me! I'm so thankful that you asked these important questions for your readers. I'm doing virtual therapy only right now for anyone who lives in any part of NY or CT. For those interested, the best way to contact me is through my website, www.knotandclover.com. There readers can find my email address, phone number, and contact form. I'm also on IG: @knotandclover.com. Wishing everyone a healthy, happy, and stress-free holiday season!