Handling the Holidays..in a New Way

By Molly Keeton, Ph.D.& Andrea Schrage, MA, LAPC,CMT

The time is coming..food, festivities, and family. This can be a combination for fun or it can be a recipe for the blues. The following is a few ideas for shifting the holiday “shoulds”.

We tend to follow the same traditions every year because, in theory, it gives us some comfort and connection. This year take some time before hand to evaluate which traditions are truly enjoyable for you. This includes who you spend the holidays with, what traditions you participate in, how much time you spend with others and how much time you spend alone. What would your ideal holiday look like? Be creative. Does it include friends, volunteering, staying at home with relatives? If you do spend time with family, how much time is enough time before you find your self needing some space? Forcing yourself into too much togetherness can create resentment that may go outward or turn inward Either way you are not helping yourself or those around you.

When making plans to change holiday traditions, be prepared for responses that you are likely to receive. Does your family use guilt or coercion to keep things at status quo? Anticipating the tactics that might be utilized can help you to plan in advance how to respond without getting caught up in old patterns. It might be helpful to discuss this with your therapist and to use role-play to get feedback on your approach. Talking to your family about your plans in advance is
preferable to discussing it during the holidays when the emotions are high.

It is important to remember that we are adults now and get to make our holidays what we want them to be. Keep in mind that when interacting with our families, it is easy to revert back to childlike ways of coping. Though these patterns kept us safe when we were younger, they currently keep us engaged in the dysfunctional system. Chances are you are in a space in your life in which you don’t solely rely on your parents for food, shelter, support, and love. Therefore you have more opportunity to make your own choices without threat of losing your foundation.

Making changes can cause temporary stress even though the long-term gains are helpful. To soothe your discomfort, try some of the following: take a hot bath, call a friend, treat yourself to a massage, write in your journal, allow yourself a day off from your to-do list, wrap yourself in a warm blanket, or make yourself a nourishing meal.

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