The holidays are this wonderfully rosy time when families get together, presents are exchanged, good food is eaten, and all hell breaks loose.
Sounds like the tagline for a movie, right?
Sometimes, that’s just what happens.
There’s so much to do over the holidays that it’s pretty easy to end up with far too much on your plate and be completely overwhelmed. You may feel like you’re spinning around in circles and can’t get traction.
We see this in horses too.
As we’ve discussed before, horses are prey animals. They live in herds and rely on each other to gauge a situation and figure out if they’re going to die or not. While humans may be a little less dramatic (sometimes), we also look to each other for support in a situation of tension or stress.
We read each other carefully to see how others are reacting and we react accordingly. In the case of horses, this is a survival instinct. A horse that isn’t paying attention to a threat is a dead one. This is where the herd mentality kicks in. When one horse is stressed or worried about something, all of the other horses in the herd become stressed and worried about that same thing. Conversely, when a threat is deemed to be unimportant by one member, the herd will ignore it.
How can you use this coping mechanism to help you survive the possible turmoil of the holidays?
- Find the calmest person in the room and soak up their energy.
- If possible, find a way to ground yourself and have a calm center before you go to an event or gathering that you know will be stressful.
- Recognize when you’re getting close to your tolerance level and either step outside for a breath of fresh air and take a minute to get your calm back. If necessary, weigh whether or not returning to the situation is a good idea. If it’s not, leave before things get overwhelming.
Now, let’s say that you don’t have the option of avoiding these stressful holiday situations and you have to face them, regardless of your feelings or ability to cope with the emotional and informational overload that can be holiday parties.
When a young horse is learning how to be handled by humans, it’s incredibly easy for the horse to be overwhelmed by too much information. A horse in this situation tends to tangle themselves up, thrashing around until they’re so stuck, they give up. It’s almost like a switch goes off and the horse goes from 100% energy, to completely still and waiting for something to happen.
Now, it may be tempting for a person to step in and “rescue” the horse at this point. But that would be a mistake.
When a horse, or a person, get themselves into this kind of situation, rescuing them will create dependency upon being rescued, instead of fostering independence. If you let them struggle, they’ll usually pick one thing to focus on. They’ll figure out the solution to their problem themselves, and the lesson will stick.
So… the holidays?
With our endless to-do lists, crazy long list of family, friend, and work-related events, it’s pretty easy to get to the tied-up-too-stressed-to-move stage before you know it.
How can you manage this or, better yet, stop it from happening altogether?
Take things one at a time. Try one approach, if that doesn’t work, then backtrack and try another one. And try another one. And try another one until something works for you. There are no cookie-cutter formulas that make surviving the craziness that can be the holidays easy or simple.
Just remember, we are human beings, not human doings.
If you can find a way to focus on the important stuff and let the non-essentials drop off your plate, you’ll be able to enjoy the holidays like we all want to. Come chat with me about this and other stuff in the WWC Facebook Group / Therapeutic + Educational Online Community!
About the Author