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Let's go easy on ourselves during the holidays.

The holidays can be stressful. We should be gentler with ourselves.

The holidays should be a time of rest, but they're often a time of high anxiety and stress.

Every December, the festive lights and colorful decorations signal to us all that this is the time to be joyful. And every year, like clockwork, my body reminds me that holiday cheer isn’t quite what I need. The holiday season involves increased expectations—pressure to look a certain way for the relatives who haven’t seen us in months, to feel a certain way for the parents who remind us that they don’t see us nearly enough, and to set new resolutions all while feeling more triggered and tired than we have all year.  Something's got to give, and often that something is our nervous systems.

As adults, we can often see the retraumatization coming from a mile away, but we don’t see any alternatives except to grin and bear it. We pour another drink, take another breath, and check our watches only to find that - yep - there are still four hours left before this party is over. What would it take for us to actually approach the holidays differently?

Doing the holidays with more gentleness requires us to commune with the younger parts of ourselves that have internalized the guilt trip. You know the voice—the one fluent in “should's,” the one that says, “This is what good daughters do,” or, “You’re going to regret it if you don’t do x, y, or z.” It actually isn’t there to hurt us. More likely, that voice is there to protect us from the pain we felt as kids. Notice it, thank it, and remind it: "I’m older now. I am okay. I’ll take it from here."