For many, the holidays are super exciting. But others actually dread this time of year. Our lives are filled with stress and sometimes a lot of pain. Family can sometimes exacerbate those feelings. We are often reminded why we moved away from home in the first place. When your stress levels hit the roof, the holidays easily become nothing but an overwhelming hassle and the meaning in them is lost.
In years past, I wished we could skip the holidays all together –until I came up with my own ways to reduce my holiday stress. Follow these steps to make the best of this time of year. Who knows? You may even end up enjoying the holidays.
1. No Politics.
Don’t discuss politics at your holiday gatherings. DON’T do it! The recent election has been rough for many of us and while there may be issues about which you are passionate, set them aside for now. When other family members try to nudge you, don’t engage. Do this for your own sake.
2. Know your triggers.
Know what topics make you stressed and upset. Is it your passive aggressive MIL who comments on how much weight you’ve gained since last year? The sibling who doesn’t help with the dishes? The family member who drinks too much and says things that can’t be unsaid? Or Worse?
It’s important to know what sets you off. We can’t change others, but we can control our decisions and responses by avoiding triggering situations and topics.
3. Set boundaries.
Once you know your triggers, set boundaries around them ahead of time. If things escalate, pre-determined boundaries can empower you to walk away before things get out of hand. Possible boundaries include not answering the phone and/or leaving when your drunk uncle starts hitting the Wild Turkey.
Boundaries with family need to be gentle yet firm. You don’t have to make a big to do about it. Be brief and make statements that are about your own feelings and needs. “Thanks for dinner. We have to get home” or “When we start discussing religion I worry our differences in opinions will upset someone, so I’m going to leave the room.”
4. Family of choice is powerful.
It’s not easy to make the choice to discontinue a relationship with a family member and I don’t encourage this as your first step, but there are times where this needs to be done.
Wait, there is good news: there is this thing called “framily.” Family doesn’t have to be blood-related; friends are just as much family for many of us. Have a Friendsgiving or other holidays with framily instead of family.
5. Keep family visits short.
Family and fish have a lot in common: they get old and stinky fast. A short, successful visit together can be what works best. Similarly, when you travel to see family, consider staying at a hotel. This gives you all a break from one another to recharge for the next day.
6. Love and kindness.
When I feel most upset, the best way out of my funk is to do something kind and loving. This could be something for someone who is a complete stranger, myself, or even someone who doesn’t deserve it. Involve your kids and f(r)amily. Acts of service for others make a huge difference in your world and someone else’s.
7. Invent new traditions.
Create fun, healthy, and new things to do with your kids. Give them memories of the holidays different from your own. You may not be able to change your past experiences with holidays but you can impact your children’s. One of my biggest challenges (I’m not good at) has been keeping my negativity about the holidays to myself. Suck it up and don’t be a holiday buzz kill for the sake of those around you.
8. Just say No!
You do not have to attend every event you are invited to. Challenge yourself to say “yes” when it’s something you want to do and say “no” when it’s something you don’t.
9. Destination trips.
When all else fails, just go out of town. It’s a perfect excuse for not being able to attend get togethers you don’t want to attend. “Thank you for the invite, but we’ll be out of town.” Boom. Done. No drama.
10. Plan self-care.
The healthy people of the world take care of themselves before they give to others. Consider this permission to do what is best for you so you have the energy to suffer through one more holiday.
In the past, you may have defined a successful holiday as one that didn’t involve the cops showing up. That’s great, but let’s shoot for more this year.
After Thanksgiving, tell me how these tips helped you deal with your own crazy family. If you have a particular situation you are anticipating dealing with, ask me about it! I love to help.
“Happy” Holidays! (No, seriously, I mean it!)
Julianne Curtis is a birth, postpartum, and bereavement doula from fort Collins Colorado. She is also a life coach an parent coach. For more information on the doula services and coaching she provides in Northern Colorado visit her website here.
New parents check out the blog on PLANNING FOR THE FOURTH TRIMESTER. This post applies to the holidays too.
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