Not only are the holidays arguably the busiest time of the year but they are also often the most stressful. And it isn’t just about all the prep, decorating, cooking and shopping for the perfect gift! For most of us the very thing that should be the most joyful about the holidays is also the most stressful! That’s right… family time! Wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy stress free family holidays?
The thought of spending so much time running around from one family event to another is beyond overwhelming. When you consider all the personalities, obligations and demands it’ no wonder. And on top of that the anxiety is often overshadowed by feelings of guilt and regret. It seems like we should appreciate and enjoy our time with family but many times we don’t. So, rather than being overwhelmed or anxious or feeling guilty or regretful let’s be prepared and set ourselves up for success.
Thoughts, Feelings and Expectations
The thing that’s likely leading to your stress and anxiety isn’t coming from anyone in your family or even your in-laws. It’s coming from inside your own heart and mind! Addressing your thoughts, feelings and expectations before heading into a single holiday event is likely to make a huge difference in creating stress free family holidays.
Our feelings are driven by our thoughts so whether you’re feeling excited, anxious or you have perfect peace it’s coming from within yourself. Take a closer look at what you think about spending time with your family. And where are these thoughts coming from? Have you had poor experiences in the past? Are there circumstances or people in your family that are difficult to deal with? Perhaps your thoughts are based on assumptions and fears.
Evaluate your thoughts and their origins and determine which are based in reality and which come from a place of fear. Remind yourself that you can’t control the circumstances or other people, but you can make choices that are empowering and beneficial to you. And… even though it’s the holidays you have every right to do so!
Change your thoughts to align with how you want to feel!
Maybe you feel automatically anxious, sad or grief stricken when you think of the upcoming holidays. This isn’t uncommon when we have had a change in our family structure or a death in our family.
It’s perfectly acceptable to feel the way that you do. Often the thing that makes us feel overwhelmed and helpless is fighting the way that we feel. Give yourself permission to experience your feelings. Observe them and let it be. Know that it will pass and there is no need to add internal conflict to your condition.
Love yourself through this challenge. Be kind, gentle and patient with yourself! Don’t worry about what other people think of your emotional state. It isn’t about anyone else.
Allow the holidays to be what they are. Don’t expect that everything is going to be like a Hallmark Christmas movie! Spoiler Alert… it won’t be! No one is going to behave perfectly according to a script you have determined in your head. Something is bound to go “wrong” and often that’s what makes the holidays the most right! It makes them the most unique and special to your family when everyone get’s to be themselves and enjoy their time together! If you think back on some of your fondest holiday memories it is likely that they are the things that were unexpected. Things you were unprepared for! Part of embracing the unexpected is having a good sense of humor. Make it your goal this year to fill the holidays with laughter and you WILL succeed!
Likewise, don’t psych yourself out by expecting the holidays to be disastrous! Being stressed about certain failure won’t make the holidays more successful! There is no reason to perseverate on everything that can go wrong. Especially since most of it probably has nothing to do with you or is outside of your control. Instead, set yourself up for success by having a plan to keep yourself in good spirits.
This might be the biggest game changer of all! You can assert boundaries throughout the holidays, and you don’t even have to feel guilty about it!
You aren’t obligated to go to any event. If you don’t feel safe and comfortable there or with that person and it can’t be resolved before the holidays, send your regrets. Don’t attend events you won’t enjoy. Don’t go places where you don’t feel welcome or safe. The holiday season is short and there is never enough time. Don’t waste your time or energy engaging where you feel drained and unwell.
If it’s too much for any reason you don’t have to host an event either. Take it from me… I canceled Thanksgiving dinner 3 years ago and had hosted it for 17 yrs prior! You must preserve your wellbeing and only you know if you are able to host or even participate in holiday festivities. Sometimes it’s too much and that’s ok. If you need to take a year off, do it!
If all it takes to have stress free family holidays is to avoid going, stay home!
You aren’t obligated to take a dish to pass or bring paper products. However, if you can’t be sure to let the host know in advance. It might be necessary to stay home or go to an event later if you aren’t able to contribute!
You can also streamline your tasks at home! Don’t get so hung up on other people’s expectations that you make yourself crazy or take away from the enjoyment of the holidays!
You can’t change the people in your family and sometimes those they choose to surround themselves with can be difficult too. Don’t put yourself in the line of fire. This doesn’t mean avoid all family events and it doesn’t mean you can choose who attends what or how everyone acts. But you can choose to avoid talking to certain people outside of pleasantries. Ask your significant other to be a buffer if you need them too. Make an agreement ahead of time with a sibling not to allow that long winded uncle to corner either of you. And when necessary excuse yourself from the situation and take a little break!
Take a Break
So, for years… I mean like 30+ years I was a smoker. I gave it up in late October 2018. Let me tell you, I had to come to terms with this through the holidays! Smoking gave me the perfect excuse to take a break when I needed one! Being in large groups of people can be pretty overwhelming and exhausting for me. And of course, if something happened or was said that upset me or ruffled my feathers I could just head out for a smoke.
When I quit I made an agreement with myself that I could take a break anytime I need one. I didn’t have to go smoke to get a few minutes alone! Whether I head to the bathroom (the best place for alone time) or just a different space, I take the time I need, and you can too.
It is reasonable to need a few minutes to yourself to recharge when you are surrounded by people. Sure, they are people you love (or hopefully at least like) but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t sometimes overwhelming or tiring. Needing a few minutes to yourself doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with the relationships or that you don’t enjoy the company of your loved ones! It just means you’re in tune with yourself and you want to bring your best self to the event so you can enjoy stress free family holidays.
One of the most important facets of enjoying the holidays with your loved ones happens long before you get to an event. It happens at home! The truth is, the better you feel about yourself the better you will feel with your family. Good self-care will help you feel relaxed and connect with your best self! That’s who you want to present at your holiday functions.
If you’re feeling insecure or run down, you’re far more likely to take a simple comment out of context. You’re likely to take the bait and react negatively to a loaded question. See, you can’t control what anyone else does or says but you can control how you react. If you go in feeling great about yourself and grounded, you’ll be unlikely to be shaken by anything that comes your way.
So, before you head off to spend time with your family this holiday season spend some good quality time with yourself! It’ll make all the difference!
Tell us in the comments… What’s your best tip for making the most of family events? The holidays can be SO stressful! Share this post to spread the holiday cheer!