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the RELATIONSHIP dance WITH VICKI MINERVA Emotional De-cluttering for the Holidays I heard the anxiety as early as this summer. It’s what I call “opening season” for the holidays. While it seemed to emerge earlier than usual this year, the subject of how to cope during the holidays is a major source of conversation in my counseling practice, especially as the season draws closer. With a nod to the growing empha- sis on de-cluttering your environment, I’d like to propose de-cluttering your expectations of life during the holidays as a worthy exercise. If current expec- tations and plans aren’t working for you, make you feel bad, or rob you of joy —you can choose to change things up!! What that looks like from year to year will vary. Flexibility is a necessity. Be realistic – with your time, money and energy. Choose your sanity, health and financial solvency. If people expect something other than that, you may have to let them know where your limits are and kindly, firmly, hold to those limits. Choose your activities purposefully. If you’ve experienced a major life change (death, divorce, marriage, birth of a child, move, etc.) it’s helpful to decide what has meaning and what makes you feel good or bad. Give your- self permission to revise your plans accordingly! Review your calendar commitments and activities from November to January. Consciously allow for empty spaces, in advance. It enables you to say “No” to lesser priorities (or unrealistic commitments) when you’ve already set aside those empty spaces. If something comes up that’s a priority, you can say “Yes,” but then carve out another empty space. Keep that “breathing room” in your schedule to prevent exhaustion. Simplify your gift giving. Ask people what they want instead of feeling pressured to find the perfect gift. Talk to your friends and extended family… it’s likely that if you’re feeling the financial and time constraints with lots of gift giving, they are too. They may welcome the suggestion to draw names, or skip the gifts and make the holidays about getting together. Acknowledge your feelings. Ignoring them doesn’t make them go away. It just makes them an invisible force you have to work around. Not that you have to wear your heart on your sleeve. Deal with those feelings during an empty block of time you can set aside for a walk or to journal. Or you may want to confide in a trusted friend. When you’re intentional about the holidays, you have better control and can avoid the unexpected meltdown. Don’t isolate. Connect with safe, supportive people if the need arises. It’s okay to let them know if you’re having a tough time. It makes a difference to know that someone else knows and is thinking good thoughts or saying prayers on your behalf. Focus on what you’re grateful for. This can be an easy one to let slip, but it makes a big difference to shift your focus, especially when you’re down, because gratitude can lift your spirits. Stop and consciously enjoy the moments of your holiday season. Don’t neglect the healthy stuff. Festivities may tempt you to eat and drink in excess. Choose moderation. Pick healthy options when you can, opt not to have the large serving or the extra drink, go for the walk. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. If you’re struggling with the holiday blues, it’s important to know when to ask for help. If you find yourself having difficulty performing normal tasks and/ or sleeping, or you feel worthless, hope- less or helpless, feel persistently sad or anxious, it may be helpful to check in with your doctor or therapist. Certainly if you have thoughts of suicide, get help. Not all “down” feelings require professional help, but there is help to alleviate the suffering when it tips the scale into depression. Just an FYI, January is often when the fallout of the holidays hits. You survived the Christmas dinner or Hanukkah celebrations, but the disappointments and stresses still sting. It’s also when the let- down from all the hustle and bustle hits. Plan something for later that gives you something to look forward to; perhaps a relaxed winter picnic at the beach with a few close friends, or a pot of chili and a rented movie at home with your immediate family. Simple is good. Take stock of your expectations now. De-clutter your calendar of those things that don’t fit your values and priorities so you can focus your time, resources and energy on what matters most. It’s how you take control of the quality of your holiday season. Take care of yourself!! Vicki Minerva has lived and worked in the South County area as a Marriage and Family Therapist for over 35 years. She and her husband George raised two beautiful daughters with the help of the vil- lage here. Her education includes a M.Div. degree from Fuller Seminary and a M.A. in Marriage, Family Counseling from Santa Clara University. You can contact her at 408.848.8793 or visit her website at My goal is to provide you with some information and help you access tools that will help you live your life and manage your relationships in healthier ways. This information is not a substitute for personal counseling and should not be taken out of context. There are many reputable therapists in the South County area should you need additional help. 90 GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2016