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Managing Holiday Perfectionism: Dr. Julie Hanks on KSL’s Studio 5

timthumb-1The holiday season can mean added stress and higher expectations (which is not good for “perfectionists” or “recovering perfectionists”!). Part of the added stress is that we often go on autopilot and rarely examine our expectations, or our “shoulds.”

On this week’s episode of Studio 5, Dr. Julie Hanks shared a formula for examining your expectations, deciding where they come from, whether or not you want to hold on to the “should” or let it go, and consider the result of keeping or rejecting the belief.

Download the “Holiday Perfectionism: Shifting Your Shoulds” worksheet (PDF file to print).

Please share with any friends or family who may need help managing high holiday expectations!

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Tips from Buddy the Elf to Increase Happiness

We all have our favorite quotes from Buddy the Elf, from the 2000 Christmas movie, ELF. If we take a closer look at some of those quotes, I think we will find that there is a lot we can learn from Buddy on how to be happy, and increase our sense of well-being.

1. “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear…”

As a matter of fact, according to a German research study, singing does enhance immunity by increasing antibodies that fight sickness (http://www.prevention.com/). So, yes, while singing is a great way to spread holiday cheer, it also boosts your own mood and keeps you healthy!

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Cut Down On Family Drama During The Holidays: Studio 5

My own personal experience coupled with my professional experience working with families for nearly 20 years, I’ve learned a few helpful strategies for navigating those occasional stressful situations that come whenever families gather.

It’s not your job to make everyone happy
Even though ideal holiday celebrations are associated with happiness, remember that it’s not your job to make everyone happy. Someone will inevitably be disappointed because they didn’t get a gift they were hoping for or because you spent more time with your partner’s family than with them. I worked with a woman in my clinical practice who worked so hard to make sure that everyone was delighted with the holiday gifts and family celebrations that she ended up exacerbating her existing physical health problems and had to spend most of the holiday in bed. We worked together to help her let others have the “privilege” of learning how to deal with disappointment and upset.

Start a different tradition
One of the beauties of being an adult is that you get to choose what you want to do. Family traditions are meant to promote family bonding, not family “bondage.” If you are feeling like you don’t have a choice in how you celebrate the holidays, it may be time to start a tradition of your own and opt out of another tradition.

It’s particularly difficult when there are strong extended family ties to break away and start your own traditions. I know of a family who decided to try leaving town to spend Christmas with an extended family member in another state. This helped establish them as “grown-ups” and sent a clear message that they are going to select which extended family traditions they will participate in.

Act like a grownup, even when you don’t feel like one
Have you ever noticed how family gatherings have a tendency to bring out old patterns and roles? A 50-year-old man can magically transform back into that older teenage brother who used to tease you mercilessly. Or that little sister can shift from a respected adult into a spoiled little girl. If old family patterns resurface, leaving you feeling like (or acting like) a child, remind yourself that you can choose not to revert back to playing your childhood role.

I worked with a man who had taken on the role of “the responsible child” early on in his life. He grew up worrying about finances and caring for younger siblings needs. As an adult, his family continued to look to him to host and foot the bill for parties, gifts, and travel expenses for family gatherings. We worked together to help him step out of his childhood role by allowing his family of origin (now all adults) to make their own travel arrangements, participate in planning and bring food to family gatherings.

Assume that others have good intentions
Even if you are well prepared to handle family drama; it may sneak up on you without warning. An offhanded comment about your parenting skills (or lack thereof) or a sister-in-law forgetting to buy a gift for your family may catch you off guard.

To fend off potential drama, I’ve found it helpful to make up a story in my mind that makes another person’s potentially hurtful behavior make sense. Thinking, “Oh, I know she’s had a difficult time caring for a sick mom” helps me to not take offense and get sucked into family drama. Assuming others’ missteps are underscored by good intentions will help you have a happier holiday.

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10 Tips For Surviving The Holidays

The approaching holidays can be exciting, overwhelming and hard all at the same time.  Here are some tips to not only survive but thrive during the festivities.

1. Live “whole-heartedly” during the holidays

Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston coined the phase after conducting thousands of interviews studying happiness and connection.  “Whole-hearted living” means letting ourselves be deeply and vulnerably seen. Loving with our whole hearts, even when there’s no guarantee. Focus on what is really important.

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Ask A Therapist: Are Panic Attacks Part of Grieving?

Q: I recently lost my dad around Christmastime, so I know I am going through a grief process. One of the things that happened to me recently is when I heard of the Japan quake. Then looking at other news, it was about the supermoon. Then my mind was flooded with all these things in the world and I had a panic attack. I mean I was truly scared and normally I do not think of these things, it lasted maybe a day…all night and the next day . Is that from realizing my own mortality? In the death of my dad ? Or am I maybe just losing my mind … a little?

A: I am so sorry for your recent loss of your father. I don’t think you are losing your mind. The death of a parent is a huge life event and often brings a sense of your own mortality to the forefront and upsets your view of the world. It makes sense that after the loss of your father, the person who is often experienced as the “protector” in the family, you’d feel for a time that the world had become scarier and less safe.

Stressful situations, like the death of a parent, can sometimes precipitate anxiety. While panic attacks usually peak at about 10 minutes, it is possible to have clusters of them. Since you don’t mention specific symptoms I can’t be certain if it was a panic attack or another kind of anxiety disorder. I suggest that you seek out a mental health evaluation to determine whether or not you have developed an anxiety disorder and if so, to get treatment. Also, I highly suggest attending a grief support group. Hospitals,  hospices, and community clinics often host groups to help grieving family members find support by sharing their experiences with others who are going through similar losses.

Take good care of yourself!
Julie Hanks, LCSW

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Are You a Good Gift Giver? 5 Love Languages

.The holiday season is an opportunity for young couples, families, and friends to show how much they mean to one another.  Some people seem to have gift-giving down to an art form.  However, there are those who habitually struggle with finding the right gift and don’t even realize it. Here are a few tips to help you choose the right gift for your loved ones this holiday season:

Not everyone appreciates gifts in the same way.  This isn’t what the retailers want you to think.  According to Dr. Gary Chapman, a top-selling author and marriage counselor, gift giving is one of the five ways we can show our loved ones that we care.  However, there are four other primary ways to show love and affection:  Acts of Service, Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch, and Quality Time. 

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The Four Things Children Really Want For Christmas

1. RELAXED & LOVING TIME WITH FAMILY 

Of all the needs of children at Christmas, relaxing memorable time with family is most important.

Questions to ask ourself as parents: *Do I create relaxed, meaningful time with my family in December? *Am I having a hectic schedule because I choose to or out of obligation?

Suggestions for relaxed, loving time with children: *Entertain less, attend fewer adult parties *Simplify preparations (Keep it Simple Sweetie) *Cut back on outside commitments *Travel less, visit less, TV less *Relax about decorations, let children help (Children are more important than things) *Make/Buy fewer gifts *Plan meaningful family time/traditions

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Give Yourself the Gift of Gratitude

“What are the benefits of feeling and expressing gratitude?” It turns out grateful people have an edge over the not-so-grateful when it comes to physical and mental health, according to several recent psychological studies.  They tend to exercise more regularly, eat healthier diets, and get a boost to their immune system.  In addition, feelings of thankfulness have a tremendous positive value in helping people deal with increased stress and anxiety which are associated with the holidays.  Gratitude can also serve as a buffer against symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) such as sadness and depression which tend to build up slowly in late autumn and into the winter months.

Wasatch Family Therapy

What better time to reflect of gratitude than during the fast approaching holiday season.  Amid the hustle and bustle of holiday preparations, mindfully take a few minutes to slow down, breathe deep, and reflect upon the many blessings in your life.  You can start today to grow your feelings of gratitude.  Here’s how:

  • Keep a Gratitude Journal.The simple act of writing down a few things on a daily or weekly basis for which you are grateful is a great way to feel better about your life as a whole and to feel more optimistic about the future.
  •  Count Your Blessings.  This list may include family, friends, freedom, spiritual convictions, hobbies, talents, and material comforts.  After writing everything that comes to mind, ask yourself, “To what extent do I take these for granted?”  Tuck this list away and pull it out whenever you’re feeling down in the dumps.  This is an excellent reminder of the good things in your life.
  •   Try a Positive Reframe.   When faced with a challenging situation, see how it could ultimately be beneficial.  For example, if you are having a particularly hard time getting along with a neighbor or coworker, rather than complaining that the person is “trying” your patience look at it as an opportunity to “improve” your patience.
  •  Graciously Accept Gratitude from Other People.  Society has taught us to dismiss the gratitude directed towards us as unnecessary.  Saying things such as, “No problem; it was nothing,” or “No thanks is necessary,” robs others of the benefits of showing gratitude.  A simple, “You’re welcome,” lets people know you appreciate being thanked.

As you incorporate these few ideas into your life, I hope you will find – as I have – that life will become richer and more satisfying this holiday season by expressing gratitude to loved ones and by giving thanks for all that blesses your life.  Happy Holidays!

 

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Top 10 Extended Family Holiday Survival Skills

Wasatch Family Therapyby Julie Hanks, LCSW

Listen to Podcast

1-Manage your own stress

Examine your own expectations and let go of some things so you’ll be your best version of yourself and able to manage family conflict calmly.

2-Don’t try to please everyone

It’s not your job to make everyone happy and meet their expectations of you. Remember “no one died from disappointment!”

3-Schedule down time

Especially if you have family coming to stay with you during the holidays make sure to carve out time for you and for your marriage. Build self-care into the schedule so you don’t get too overwhelmed.

4-Start with your own family then move outward

Ask yourself, your spouse, and your children how THEY want to spend their time, and make that top priority.

5-Just because you’ve always done it doesn’t mean you have to continue to do it

Traditions are meant to create meaning and promote bonding, not bondage. Choose to skip out on some of the expected things. That’s the beauty of being an adult — you get to choose what you want to do.

6-Set expectations ahead of time

If you know that in the past there have been conflicts, address it ahead of time. Where will family be staying? If you’re hosting a party what are your expectations of others?

7-No on can “guilt trip” you without consent

When you’re approached by a family member about an event you’re not attending or why you didn’t spend as much money as someone spent on you, don’t take the bait!

8-Answer those awkward questions with confidence

You’ve go to love those questions like  “So your husband’s still unemployed?” or “So you finally decided to come to OUR Christmas party this year?” answer directly and with confidence.

9-Assume other’s best intentions

With so many expectations swirling, too much sugar, and not enough sleep, it’s easy to get offended if a sister in law forgot to give you a gift, or if your uncle makes an off-handed comment about your parenting skills. Assume the BEST instead of the worst case scenario for their motive.

10-Listen to others graciously and do what you want to do

While it’s nice if everyone’s expectations are met, it’s unlikely. Empathize with your extended family’s disappointment that you couldn’t make their party or you chose to opt out of a certain tradition, and then continue with your holiday plans.

Merry Christmas and take good care of You and Yours!
Listen to Julie Hanks, LCSW weekly podcast show You and Yours on the Women’s Information Network

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Gifts of Self: All he wants for Christmas is you

What are you getting your spouse or loved one for Christmas?

Our Director, Julie Hanks, LCSW was invited to contribute a “Love” article for Winter 2010 issue of Latter-day Woman Magazine…

“Finding the perfect gift for your spouse is an exciting part of the holiday season. But fighting crowds to snag one of the latest must-have items and squeezing money out of a tight budget can make gift-giving stressful. While I wouldn’t mind a new iPad under the tree this year, (listening, Santa?) the best gifts are those that don’t require money, but require thought and time and emotional awareness.”

Read my tips on giving meaningful gifts of self…

Read Article online

Download PDF

What’s been the most meaningful gift you’ve ever received, and why?

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