By Dwight Hollier,LPC and Lauren Loberg,PH.D, Player Engagement Staff
While the holiday season can be one of excitement and fun, it can also be one of chaos and stress. Having the opportunity to spend time with family and other loved ones often makes for a memorable occasion. However, there are also very few things that can trigger the drama and confusion that can result from family gatherings, and combined with commercial pressures of Christmas and the New Year, it can be even more intense. Here are a few reminders to help you maintain some sort of balance going into the New Year.
Keep your expectations in check. We often interact with family based on the relationship we want with them, rather than the actual relationship that exists. If you find yourself frustrated or disappointed with your interactions, think about what your expectations were. It is helpful to remember that while people do change, the best predictor of current behavior is past behavior.
Learn to recognize your symptoms of stress. How do you know when you’re stressed? Stress has emotional, behavioral, cognitive, and physical symptoms, and we each manifest them differently. Some of us recognize that we become more irritable, others may realize that they engage in unhealthy behaviors such overeating, drinking or substance abuse, while some may “shut down” and find ways to isolate and shut out the world. If you can begin to recognize some of the triggers and symptoms for yourself, you are better equipped to implement strategies to take preventative measures.
Don’t forget self-care. During the holidays, it’s easy to spend most of our energy taking care of others. In order to be helpful to others in the healthiest way possible, we need to be healthy ourselves. Take the time to replenish yourself in a healthy way—take the break that you need to rather than feeling that spending time, attention, money, or resources on yourself is a selfish act.
Know when to say no, and know when to ask for help. Again, this is easier said than done. Some of us are self-described “people pleasers,” who struggle significantly with the fear of letting someone down, even if completing the task they ask is detrimental. As a result, we become overcommitted, trying to juggle too many demands. We don’t want to disappoint, or maybe seem effective. However, there are times when we need to be able to say “no” and walk away. “I’m sorry, but I can’t take anything else on right now.” Find a way to say “no” that feels comfortable for you, and practice using it. Similarly, we need to understand that asking for help is not a sign of weakness, and be willing to share responsibilities.
While these strategies seem pretty simple, they can be difficult to implement at times, particularly during the holidays, or when surrounded by family. Start small and build up. The New Year is a great time to make changes, increasing your focus on health and self-care. If you need counseling or advice the NFL Players Assistance and Counseling Services Program (866-421-8628) advisors can assist you with getting connected with the resource you need. Also, if you are experiencing a crisis situation, the NFL Lifeline (800-506-0078) provides immediate, free, confidential emotional support from trained professionals for anyone in the NFL Family.