It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Family, food and gift giving make for a very merry couple of months, but the festivities can strain us physically and emotionally.
Empower yourself against the holiday blues with proactive coping strategies for the following big seasonal stressors.
1) Unrealistic Expectations
In our imaginations, lights twinkle as snowflakes fall outside the windows while we engage in jovial conversations by a roaring fire. We expect the romance of "Miracle on 34th Street" and neighborliness of "It’s a Wonderful Life."
Then three dinner guests call to cancel at the last minute, and while you're on the phone with them, the dog drags the turkey off the counter.
Unrealistic expectations guarantee disappointment. It’s best to take a pragmatic view of the holidays: it’s a nice time to reunite with friends and family, usually involving extensive preparations, a lot of personalities, stress and fatigue.
2) Family Discord
Speaking of unrealistic expectations, accept the imperfections in your family.
Your brother-in-law drinks too much and starts telling off-color jokes. Your mother asks why you aren’t pregnant yet. Your father-in-law mentions the money you owe him.
Remind yourself throughout the day, “I cannot control other people’s behavior, only my reaction to it.” We can better control our reactions to negativity if we have an arsenal of de-escalation phrases. Practice these, or better yet, keep them on a post-it under your napkin:
- “Tell me more.”
- “I hear you.”
- “It sounds like that’s important to you. Why don’t we talk tomorrow in private?”
- “I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.”
- “Why do you ask?”
If year after year, you find the same person at your table making you miserable, step back and reevaluate the situation. If we repeatedly put ourselves in the presence of a notoriously abusive person, the onus is on us to make a healthier choice.