I know, it’s that time of year again. Thanksgiving is right in front of us and that means Hanukkah, Kwanza, Christmas and New Year’s is right around the corner. We each have our own version of the perfect holiday. We each have our own version of holidays gone bad. Regardless of your version, it is difficult to escape all the hype and expectations that surround this time of year. Holidays tend to exert tremendous pressure on our relationships. They magnify everything—the fact that you’re not married, married to a jerk, have no family around, have family around that you rather not see, are currently out of work, have no money to spend on gifts this year, and so on and so on. Whether you are filled with gratitude or filled with dread, the holidays will undoubtedly test your patience, tolerance, attitudes, expectations, beliefs, and most of all, your relationships. Talk about the ultimate mirror for you and your life.
So how can we counteract this inherent pressure we feel around this time of year? How can we enjoy the spirit of the holidays without getting caught up with all the hype? How can we get through family gatherings without feeling any angst or depression the day after? Okay, if you are one of the lucky ones that love the holidays and all that comes with them, feel free to pass on this one. But if you are one of the millions that have any misgivings about getting through the holidays intact, please read on. Here are my seven sassy suggestions for surviving the holiday season.
- Keep your expectations low. Most people get into trouble when they expect the holidays to be something that differs from the other 364 days of the year. Don’t think for one minute that anyone has a perfect family with perfect holiday celebrations. In reality, they are usually a mixed bag.
- Remember, your family is still your family. Just because it’s a holiday, don’t expect your father to all of a sudden act like your dream dad. Your siblings will still treat you as they did when you were young and your children will still get tired and cranky at the end of a long day of festivities.
- Watch your alcohol intake. Some people use holidays as a great excuse to drink a lot of alcohol. Some people feel they need a strong drink to get through another work or family function. In truth, drinking too much can get you into trouble. It may encourage you to say or do things you will regret. In may exacerbate any depression that may already exist, and if nothing else, it may add a few more pounds to your belly.
- It’s okay to pass on holiday invites. You can choose to see a movie instead of your family. You can enjoy a quiet day at home instead of feeling like you should be partying the night away. You can stay in town or leave town depending on what your gut tells you. You can go about your business like every other day. While having to listen to Christmas music while in the grocery store may not be optional, celebrating any holiday is. Be a rebel without a cause. Just make sure you have some food in the fridge.
- If you have family close by and want to spend your holidays with them, please do so, but remember items 1-3 above. If you don’t have family close by or the family that is, is not your cup of tea, create a family for yourself. Some of the best holidays are those spent with friends. Adopt a friend’s family for the day—being with someone else’s family always provides entertainment and perspective on your own. Reach out to those in need and offer your help or companionship. Being with “family” on the holidays means so much more than blood relatives.
- Don’t force anything. Just because your holiday does not match your fantasy of what a holiday should look like, doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you or yours. We are sold a bill of goods on what to buy, how to look, and what to do in order for our holidays to be complete. These images from the media simply aren’t true. Don’t get caught up. Enjoy your holidays for what they are, not what anyone else tells you they should be.
- Lastly, remember January is right around the corner. This too shall pass. All the decorations will be put away, the parties will subside, the pressure will diminish and life will go on as usual. If the holidays are especially hard for you this year, whether that’s because of a recent loss, hard times, or illness, know that in six weeks it will all be over. You will have survived the season and will move on to better days!
Regardless of what you do this Thursday, I wish you a turkey day filled with peace and grace! And don’t forget to let me know how things are going for you during this busy time of year. If you find that the holidays are pushing your relationships to new lows, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m here to help!
Julie Orlov, psychotherapist, speaker, and author of The Pathway to Love: Create Intimacy and Transform Your Relationships through Self-Discovery
Create Relationships in Your Life That Work — learn more at www.julieorlov.com