surviving the holidays with family

3 Fact-based Strategies for Surviving the Holidays

Right around this time, every year, my clients’ lives begin to churn with guilt and stress, and they wonder how surviving the holidays is possible. My clients’ tell me about all the extra stuff they “have to” do to get ready for the holidays. They tell me about the family traditions they’ve already begun to dread. They say they wish they could enjoy the holidays more. Then they chastise themselves as being “bad” people for feeling that way. Let me say here the same thing I say to each of them: The only way to enjoy the holidays is to do what fulfills you. When you start with a sense of obligation (a “have to”), that leads to guilt, which, in turn, leads directly to resentment. The way to beat what I call this Obligation-Guilt-Resentment cycle is by adapting three crucial strategies: 1. Take care of yourself first. There’s a reason the airlines tell us to put on our oxygen masks before helping others. When we’re tired or fed up or angry or emotionally exhausted, it becomes difficult (if not impossible) to show care to those around us. Sure, I’ve had plenty of clients who think they do an excellent job of hiding their feelings about the holidays, but in nearly every case, they’ve discovered that their loved ones did know they were unhappy. Kids say, “Dad’s always a grump at Christmas,” or their spouse says, “We have a major fight just after Thanksgiving every year, without fail.” If you don’t want to ruin the holidays for those around you, you’re going to have to get good at making sure you take the time to do the stuff that you enjoy, this is the first key to surviving the holidays. 2. Accept that there are no “bad” feelings. It’s okay to dislike going to your mother-in-law’s house for Thanksgiving every year. Hate the meatballs that have been a family tradition since before you were born? That’s okay. It’s even okay not to enjoy playing host to people you love. The only way to discover happiness is first to identify and acknowledge your other, sometimes uncomfortable feelings. The truth is, emotions don’t make us bad; actions do. Feeling so angry at someone that you want to punch them doesn’t make you a violent person; punching them makes you violent. So, accept the fact that you hate spending $2500 to fly your …

Man sitting in front of Christmas tree

Christmas Stress and Holiday Have-To’s

3 Things to Know About Christmas Stress and Holiday Have-To’s (and How to Avoid Them) The holidays can be full of Christmas stress and “have to’s.” No matter what our personality is— extrovert or introvert, party-person, or home-body. I have to go to the company party. It would be rude if I didn’t show up. We have to go to my mother’s house for Christmas Eve. She expects us. I have to make everyone’s favorite type of cookie. I’ve always done that. We have to invite cranky Uncle Ted to Christmas. He’s family. Does any of that sound familiar? If you’re like most of us, you could probably add a dozen more have-to’s of your own to the list. Here’s the thing with obligation guilt; however: We do it to ourselves. Don’t believe me yet? Here are the only three things you need to know about minimizing your holiday obligations this year. One: Obligations are never imposed on us without consent. This may not feel true yet, but the fact is that obligations are never thrust on us. Obligations are, in fact, choices we make ourselves based on information we believe to be true. Take Tom, for example. He believed that if he didn’t spend Christmas with his family, he’d let everyone down. He didn’t want to spend Christmas at his parent’s house, but he assumed that not showing up would, in some way, be worse. In effect, it was easier to “suck it up and go” and deal with the Christmas stress than it was to confront his parents with a change in plans. This lack of choice may feel very real to us, particularly when it comes to our closest relationships. We hate to disappoint, hate confrontation, hate to cause confusion, or pain. But here’s the truth: We always have a choice in how we respond to a person or situation. Even though our choices may disappoint others, they are still our choices to make. Two: Obligations are internally imposed. To understand this second fact, you first must understand the psychological process of obligation. It goes like this: 1. We receive an invitation. 2. Our inviting host expresses their hopes or expectations for the event. 3. We internalize their hopes and expectations as our own. Did you catch that? We have an uncanny ability to take on the expectations of other people. The reason we do that is …

Avoid the Holiday Meltdown

  Want to know how to Avoid the holiday meltdown this year? We’re talking about the holiday meltdown to hopefully set in new habits for the next holiday. People struggle with the holidays because they’re so focused on pleasing others. There’s this fantasy that you’re going to hurt somebody, or someone is going to be angry or upset because you didn’t give them what they wanted. Children need to learn that they’re not going to get everything they want for the rest of their lives, and adults should certainly be able to handle this. Let go of that fantasy, and see what really happens. How to Handle the Holiday Meltdown Start talking about the problem or the holiday meltdown in advance. Ask yourself, how the holiday went last year and what you can do now, to avoid the holiday going bad. People get stuck in thinking they have to do a tradition or they’re going to feel bad later. You can not fix a future problem later. The thought process, ” If I don’t see them now, then I am going to feel bad or guilty later.” You are going to feel guilty and sad later because that is a part of life. What Causes the Holiday Meltdown? There are feelings that people have labeled as bad, and feelings that people have labeled as good. There is no such thing. Anger, sadness, neediness are all normal. If you already have issues with these feelings, during the holidays they will get worse. If you think you can’t feel sad any other day of the week, you’re definitely going to think you shouldn’t feel sad during the holidays. That is nonsense, feelings don’t take a hiatus during the holidays. You have to allow yourself the time to process that emotion, whatever the enemy emotion is. There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying, I am going to go take a walk, or a nap, to get that feeling processed. If you can do this in advance, even better! Be Prepared Maybe you get sad about the loss of a parent every holiday, or a child who can’t come home. Go ahead and say this in advance to your family members. Such as, “It turns out I get sad during the holidays, I am going to go ahead and take a break on Christmas Eve to have some time for myself.” Get this all …