Holidays. Family. Cheer. Giving. Stress. Conflict. All of the above… Fasten your seatbelt, December is here again, and it’s time to plan for defusing holiday stress. Over the years, we’ve developed a few pointers towards strategies that come up again and again. Take a deep breath. You can do this!
- Let it happen. All human cultures from the dawn of human history have had and continue to have seasonal celebrations and festivals. It’s a chance to break from “reality” and have fun. People eat too much, drink too much, and yes, spend too much money. You want to maintain your perspective and keep your eye on the long goal of a healthy life, but it’s also OK to let go just a bit. Don’t tell yourself that you’re doing the holidays “wrong”. Just celebrate.
- Think of family as a resource, not a drag. Sure, they know how to push all your buttons, and you know how to push theirs too. But take note of the aunt who never forgets a birthday. Thank the ones who read up on your diagnosis after you revealed it. Think of ways to make the holidays memorable for the children and young people in the family. You are what their memories will be made of.
- Don’t use the holiday family dinner to make important announcements (an engagement is maybe an exception to this rule…). Don’t plan on holiday get-togethers as a time to “fix” what’s wrong with people, either, use them to get to know these weird people better. I have a cousin who’s a lawyer, one who’s a dairy farmer and one who leads a bagpipe band. All worlds I would never have a chance to get a look at without family relationships. What a gift!
- Breathe. Give yourself time. Use the bathroom for privacy whenever necessary. If you know there will be difficult conversations going on, and you can’t think of any way to avoid them, then practice ahead of time, learning your non-confrontational lines and reminding yourself to breathe and let stuff run off your back like a duck in the rain.
- Keep your boundaries. Refuse invitations when you need time. Leave early. Walk away when no progress is being made. Although people do sometimes change, it’s never because a relative persuaded them their opinions are wrong. Let people talk and use it as a chance to understand them better.
We all have a lot of baggage around holidays, and it can be hard to pull it out each year and go over it again. But there are also the fun times, the moments when the jangly music in the store suddenly breaks through to your heart. The smell of pine and the light of candles. You won’t be feeling it all the time, but if you take those brief moments when they come, you will find that you can run with them further than you expect.