Holiday Time … Again!

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and it’s generally considered the official marker of the Holiday Season in the United States. It’s that time of year again! It’s supposed to be the time of year that brings joy and sentiments of good wishes. However, what most people experience, instead, is a great deal of stress and anxiety.

The cause of these negative emotions can come from a number of factors, many of which feel out of your control. I’m hoping this post will help clarify some of these concerns.

Many of you attempt to make the Holidays “just right.” Unfortunately, this often leads to disappointment. You put in a great deal of effort and either the things you did, don’t go the way you hoped, or the amount of effort you made isn’t appreciated. There are several possible remedies for this dilemma: 1) Accept that you do what you do because it’s who you are; getting appreciation is a bonus. 2) Only extend yourself to the degree you truly want to. And 3) Allow yourself to ask for help.

Another source of stress for many is about gift-giving. Here, too, there are some things you can do to gain some relief. First, ask others to give you a list of several items they’d like to receive and choose from the list. Guessing about what to get someone is stressful for you, and if it isn’t an item the person likes, it’s also anxiety ridden for them as they receive it. In today’s economy, you might all decide to limit how many presents will be exchanged. Homemade gifts are also very thoughtful.

In the past, I’ve written about the fact that, largely because of the media portrayal, you have a misperception of what the Holidays “look” like as you get together with your family. The reality is that most families do not function in the harmonious, connected, joyful way the writers’ imagination would have you believe. Just knowing this can help.

But to be more practical about the emotional, here are some things you help you as you make your visits:

  1. Know that many of your childhood issues get triggered when you interact with your family of origin. This will help you not go into the situation blind-sided.
  2. Anticipate what some of the annoying behaviors are of the various family members. You can even make a game out of it which provides some distancing from it.
  3. Remember that everyone has warts (or imperfections), even you. Try to think about the positive things about someone and “let go” of the other annoyances. After all, the visit will be short-lived and the consequences and hard feelings of conflicts will last a long time afterwards.
  4. Create a signal with your mate or another family member who feels as you do so you can step away and take a breather, if necessary.
  5. Offer to help. By being in the kitchen or involved in activities you end up out of the line of action.

In general, try to remember that this is a time of year to reflect on all the things in life that are good. Even though there may be sadness for some of you, try to stay focused on the positive. Even small things, especially small things, can really make a difference!