By Amreeta Kaur, MSW, RSW

As the holiday season begins, many of us are busy buying gifts, mailing cards and attending holiday parties. For some of us, it is a time to connect with others. However, it can also be a challenging time. Whether it’s coping with a withdrawn teenage son, caring for our aging parents, or trying to please a difficult boss, our day-to-day struggles don’t take a break during the holidays. As much as we want to have a festive time, the combination of holiday obligations and these ongoing struggles can result in a lot of holiday stress.


Wholehearted Living

One way to understand holiday stress is by looking at our own feelings of shame and vulnerability. Shame that we are not connecting to our teenage son, feeling stressed in caring for our aging parents, or not doing well at work. Shame is like a gremlin telling us that we are not good enough, because it feels like we should be able to handle it all. One of the strategies I teach to approach vulnerability and shame is practicing wholehearted living.


Based on the work of Brene Brown, living wholeheartedly is a daily practice of leaning into our imperfection and vulnerability, engaging from a place of worthiness, and showing up in our lives with courage, connection and creativity. When you are coping with stress during the holidays, how do you let yourself show up and be seen?


Recognize the Armor

The first step in living wholeheartedly is to recognize the armor you use to protect your feelings of shame and vulnerability. Take note of whether you use this armor to fight, please or hide from others. Acknowledging the armor and recognizing when it is coming up will help you to identify why the armor is present. This is especially useful during holiday festivities and events, as you can then choose to put the armor away.


Use Permission Slips

During the holidays, we often follow unspoken rules of engagement or we believe that we are not good enough to step outside of expectations. Often, the hardest step is giving yourself permission to be how you want to be. Writing yourself a permission slip during these times is a good tool to step outside the box and allow your authentic self to show. Examples of what you could write on your permission slip are:

  • be kind to your feelings and the shame “gremlins”
  • be present in the moment
  • choose to have fun.


Practice Gratitude

The holiday season can be the time of year to show your gratitude for loved ones who see you the way you are, your imperfections and all. You could make them a card, give them a gift, or simply say thank you. If you feel that you do not have someone like this in your life, you can practice gratitude when a person performs an act of kindness for you.


As you head into the holidays, remember that living wholeheartedly is a daily practice. During stressful moments, see if you can take one or more of these steps. Be kind to yourself as you cope with the ups and downs of the season. Know that you may be imperfect AND you are still worthy of love and belonging.