Roasted turkey, fruitcake, bean casserole, choosing a color scheme for the Christmas tree and the list goes on of the many familiar signs that the holiday season is in full swing. This time of year can evoke emotions of cheer and glee as well as dread and anxiety. The music, decorations and lights can trigger thoughts of reflection or regret.
For some of us, that means spending time with family, either by choice or feelings of obligation. Connecting with family and friends can be replenishing and/or depleting. Some people spend this time embracing old memories and learning the secret family recipes. If you find this time of year as a joyful experience, please be aware that others find this time to be challenging. There are those who grin and bear the awkwardly silent moments when a family member/ friend comments on your size, significant other or lack thereof. Yet others have determined this is the last holiday that a family member/ friend will cross the line. Whether you find yourself being the former, latter or somewhere in between, surviving the holidays takes a game plan with strategy likened to a super bowl game.
Here are 3 key plays to remember:
- Remembering the goal:
This is a holiday, not an intervention. No matter the way you celebrate or even if you are not celebrating but want to join in the gatherings of others, this is a time to embrace the best in yourself and others. Use this time to create new memories, relish old memories and extend kindness toward others.
If you encounter some who do not share your goal(s), you may need to consider if the interaction is a good fit for you. This does not have to be an intervention where someone redirects the focus of the day to get something “off of his or her chest”. Airing out dirty laundry can be saved for another day, if at all. You have the responsibility and right to determine what is in your best interest. With peace and love as your goal, anything contrary is “out of bounds”.
- Staying within bounds:
Know your limits. Do not overdo anything. This includes cooking, decorating, spending and eating. Many feel like this is an expression of love yet do not consider how it can take away time enjoying family and friends. When you are worn out from making the day “perfect”, your loved ones do not get to experience the best, well-rested you. It is easy to get enraptured with the commercialization of the season but there is potentially an emotional and physical cost that exceeds your limits.Setting boundaries also relates to interacting with people.
If there is a negative situation, you get to choose to disengage from that person or the gathering. I’m not referring to storming out of the door after a yelling match. I simply suggesting that you do not have to be the trashcan where others spew their garbage. Accept that negativity is more about them than you and you do not have to give audience to poor behavior. Leave the conversation, the room or the gathering. Keep your power.
- Taking a timeout:
In the milieu of the festivities, it is hard to find a place to sit and take it all in. Before the gathering, identify a place or time that you can take a breath. If you are anticipating those “obnoxious” relatives/ friends are coming, determine where you need to go to decompress – the bathroom, a bedroom, the porch or the closet if necessary. If you know that the event can go on longer than you can endure, identify the signs of when you reach your limit and set a time to leave before you reach your limit. This applies mostly if you are not hosting the gathering.
We all need a place to feel safe and self soothe. Taking a few deep diaphragmatic breaths, going for a walk or listening to music. Being over-stimulated stops you from being your best self and is a sign that the goal of the gathering is lost.
This time of year does not have to leave you physically and emotionally exhausted. Having a strategy with follow through is key.