There can be a lot of advice coming to you this time of year about coping with the multiple stresses of the Holiday Season. If ever there was a time of the year that we can feel bombarded by the demands of the outside world; this time of year is it.
My advice is keeping it simple.
Pressures from the outside world can come in two major forms:
1) The Hollywood hype that is created by the movies, which indirectly tell us how we SHOULD behave and interact at this time of year.
2) The demands we put on ourselves, based on our own individual and family expectations that can challenge our personal BOUNDARIES.
Let’s tackle Hollywood first:
It is so important for us to not get caught up in the nostalgic Holiday Season hype perpetuated by the media. Paying attention to Hollywood and the media can leave us trapped in a vortex of unrealistic and idealistic expectations. It is so easy for us to forget that the stories and expectations are just not real.
The rules of Hollywood:
Families will always put their difficulties aside, come together and sit down to have a peaceable happy meal together.
Whatever the challenges are that family members face, they will always learn to find new meaning, and in turn grow from their circumstances.
Holiday Season movies always have a happy ending.
With this idealized family picture in our heads we can be forced to connect and reconnect with family members we often don’t like, perhaps rarely see, and would rather not be with. It is a time when old grudges can resurface, old stories can get repeated, and unresolved family dynamics are replayed. Let’s face it — for many of us holiday gatherings can be stressful!
It is within this context that we are challenged to have a
MERRY XMAS, HAPPY KWANZAA,
If ever there were a time that we can be set up to be disappointed — the Holiday Season has the potential to be it.
The Holiday Season is the time of year where our own personal needs can be juxtaposed with those of our family; both nuclear and extended. If we have not developed the skill of learning to state our expectations clearly to others, we can be left feeling pressured and resentful. Standing your ground and Learning to say “NO” to someone without feeling guilty, especially if they are manipulative, can be wearing.
So what do you do with an over bearing relative who always has holiday celebrations at their home, when this year you want to do something different?
Create a Plan
Get grounded and clear on what you need, and want, to say to said family member. You may even want to speak to a third party as a way to clarify and establish your position. Garner supportive allies, politely present your position, stick to your guns, and try to find a way to make things win/win.
“Sorry we can’t do Xmas dinner with you this year but we can come by on New Year’s Day would that work for you.”
Offer an alternative solution well in advance.
If ever there was a time where we need to be clear on who we are and what is important to us — this would be the time.
What if you are the over bearing relative? It’s time to accept that plans don’t always go exactly our way. Perhaps this is the year where we are being called upon to do something different. We may have to respect the fact that others in the family may have their own plans and want to develop their own traditions to commemorate this time of year in their own way. By them doing this, we need to realize that this is not necessarily a personal affront or rejection of us. More than ever the Holiday Season asks us to be flexible, tolerant and accepting of each other. After all…
“Tis the Season of Good Will”
Five Tips to help you cope with the high expectations of the Holiday Season
Think of your family as a sit com and savor the fact that your family isn’t dull or boring.
Understand that the perfect family does not exist. Most families range from being idiosyncratic to dysfunctional, so if you come from a family where ongoing conflict is normal — don’t expect that things will miraculously be different at this time of year. Limit your expectations and embrace the quirkiness of your family.
Develop a healthy detachment. This year, for this Holiday Season only, why not let go of old resentments? Find healthy ways to park your old stories and pain; think of all the negative energy you’ve wasted by holding on to all that resentment. Be the bigger and better person this year, let those resentments go. Find ways to sit back and observe and not take things so personally. Take some time out for yourself; swim, walk, meditate, take care of yourself and ensure that your personal needs are met before embarking on a family encounter that could have the potential to be stressful.
Develop an exit strategy.
Don’t leave things to chance, prepare ahead of time and have a strategy that allows you take a break from an uncomfortable situation. Weigh the pros and cons of confronting a racist, sexist, homophobic or just plain rude family member — they may be politically incorrect but maybe the family get together is not the place to openly correct them. You may need to mentally call them a ‘jerk,’ in your own mind but outwardly you can change the subject or leave the situation. Clear your mind, get a breath of fresh air and find ways not to react and provide an audience to their rudeness. If you feel you must respond, a very simple remark about their comments or behavior will suffice – don’t make it a personal attack on them. Gracefully employ your Exit Strategy.
Keep a clear head.
Watch and limit your alcohol intake; explosive and volatile family conflicts are most likely to occur when alcohol is involved. Knowing this important bit of information means that you can attend your family gathering armed with a plan. Know your limit. Do your research and know how many drinks you can have before your mood shifts or changes and limit your alcohol consumption to just below your trigger limit. Drink lots of water in between consuming alcohol in order to reduce dehydration. Take some responsibility this year and be in control of your alcohol rather than having alcohol being in control of you.
Find your own meaning for this time of year.
Create and define the Holiday Season in your own way. Is this a religious time of year for you? Is it a time to slow down and reflect? Is it a time to reach out and connect with others? Or is it simply just a time for you to appreciate the unique, eccentric, and perhaps peculiar family that you have? Whatever you do, don’t get caught up in the old irrational compare and despair trap that people can fall into at this time of year. (Comparing yourself to ideals and despairing because you can’t live up to them.) Find your own meaning and purpose as to what the Holiday Season is about for you.
Between the beginning of November and the middle of January there are at least 29 different holiday celebrations observed by 7 of the world’s major religions; Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Yule, Omisoka, Milad un Nabi — I am sure I have left out a few! Most of these holidays will involve some form of family celebration or family gathering. Regardless of the culture, and the holiday celebration, families tend to be remarkably similar. These five holiday tips can be useful in all of the above family situations and can truly help in your contribution to creating a peaceful, joyful and memorable family experience for yourself and those close to you.
Author, Public Speaker
Life-Relationship & Career Coach
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