It’s been a very busy time of year for most of the therapists I know. At this time of year, we deal with people who are stressed about their holiday events or are disappointed in how the holidays go in their family. This time of year can also remind us of a loss, where we miss someone or something (a marriage perhaps) that brings up feelings of grief. We are expected to be in the “Spirit of the Holidays”, and for those who struggle, this can be a painful time.
Let’s take control of this Holiday Season by having reasonable expectations. Be honest with yourself about what is realistic. If you come from a close family that shares wonderful holiday events, you’ll likely enjoy that again this year.
If you come from a disconnected family, or a family that shares upsetting holiday events, that will also likely be repeated unless you take steps to do things differently. What steps can we take? Here are some ideas:
Don’t do what you know doesn’t work!
Be honest with yourself about what hasn’t worked in past years. Complicated meals, where you feel stressed and at whits end? Forget it. Plan something fun to cook and easy to clean up! Toxic interactions? Set some boundaries this year on how things will go. Step in quickly if you see a problem and remind people that this is a time for celebration. Our missteps are usually predictable as they’ve happened before. Plan this holiday season out. Don’t fall into the same trap!
Decrease Alcohol Use
For years we have enjoyed holiday meals and events with minimal alcohol use. Let guests know that instead of bringing a bottle of wine, flowers would be appreciated. Ask the problem drinker to help with implementation (running errands, helping cook etc.) so that there is less sitting around. If necessary, set a boundary on the amount of drinking that is to take place. Do that for yourself and your loved ones. “You know, this year I’d like to see less drinking. Let’s play games instead”. Serve wine during the meal for a toast but don’t have an open bar sitting around. Let’s have a sober and loving holiday!
Communicate your needs
Let your family and your guest know what you need. Communication helps. Whether we are talking about a gift you really want, or how you want the dinner to go, no one will read your mind. “What I’d like this year is…..” will help guide how the event will go.
I’m known in my work to encourage clear boundary setting. I really want us to use boundaries during the holidays. No your not being a bad sport if you say “No Thanks” to a plan that hasn’t worked well in the past. Sure we want to share and have fun, but we also get to say “no” when need be. Give some thoughts to what you would have changed about past holidays and make those changes for this one!
I think sitting around is over-rated. Get active. Have your guests up out of their seats to play games, take walks or to help with projects. If you have family staying for several days, involve them in a household project. Go sightseeing, even if you’re like me and are from Denver. Go skiing now that we have some snow!
Most of all, enjoy your loved ones!
Happy Holidays Everyone!
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“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
William Strong, LCSW
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