Entering the holiday season is portrayed as exciting, fun, and the expectations of being surrounded by family and friends. Holiday movies show families reuniting, and music of bonding and sharing in the spirit can become difficult to avoid.

However, that isn’t the reality for everyone. Other feelings, such as guilt, shame, and stress, can start to manifest. The guilt and shame of NOT wanting to go home or spend time with those you are not comfortable with. The focus of traveling, changing your routine, financial strain, or the stress of feeling unaccepted by those you would spend the holiday with, can arise. These feelings are sometimes called the “holiday blues” and are a real and valid experience.

These things are sometimes easier to avoid without an expectation of spending time with people that you may be struggling to be around. Holidays bring up this expectation. The struggle is valid. And family does not mean obligation if it is not serving you.

The guilt seems to be stronger around the holiday season. Has anyone ever said to you, “But it’s your mother, you should call her!” even though calling your mother leaves you feeling drained, upset, and triggered? The truth is you don’t have to call anyone that leaves you feeling that way. Would you remain friends with someone that left you feeling that way? Probably not. But exploring boundaries within family dynamics can be complex due to guilt and expectations.

Sometimes exploring boundaries can be a way to maintain and help relationships. It can create spaces of respect, let go of resentments and work toward your goal for the relationship. As we either transition into adulthood or go through different life adjustments in adulthood, it can change our relationships with family members. A boundary can be placed at any time during the lifespan.

If you struggle with family stress, the holiday blues, or complicated interpersonal relationships, therapy can be a validating place. Working with a therapist can help you process your own emotions and make choices that serve you rather than the expectations put on you. It can also help you make choices that are empowering for you. The goal is always what you want and need and how to better manage these feelings.

If this sounds like the situation you or someone you care about is confronting, please contact Good Therapy’s team of licensed professional counselors and therapists today at 630-473-3971.