Foolproof Your Holiday Season
Have you ever seen the movie “Four Christmases?” If not, I highly recommend it for some guilty viewing pleasure! It is the story about a couple who visits their families around Christmas time only to be triggered by various forms of family dysfunction at every corner! They encounter situations with messy family boundaries, uncomfortable family disclosures, and severe adult sibling rivalry, laced with ineffective communication styles throughout, which tangles them up quickly into some knee-deep interpersonal couples’ quarreling and disconnection.
Does this sound at all familiar to you? Do you ever find yourself being triggered when engaging with extended family? Are you looking for ways to foolproof your holiday bliss and preserve your sanity (and/or) relationship? Here are some tips for you!
1. Think creatively.
It starts to feel overwhelming to incorporate everybody and everything into all aspects of the celebration. Do you have several people that you feel the need to fit in to your holiday schedule? If so, why not designate a day to spend with each that doesn’t fall on the exact holiday? Attempting to make everyone else happy is sure to suck the bliss right out of your holiday season. Traditions are a wonderful part of our lives that make them rich and strengthen our bonds. However, sometimes it is worth it to break with certain traditions or change them in a way that honors your emerging needs with each new phase of life. Learning how to say “no” to feelings of obligation and “yes” to your own needs is a worthy skill to develop around holiday time or anytime for that matter!
2. Hosting on the clock.
If you plan on hosting an event at your house, and you know that several of your guests have a history of overstaying their welcome, it helps to have a plan for when you intend to start receiving guests and when you intend to say your goodbyes. Usually this is accomplished by including this information when you extend the invite. If it’s important to spend quality time with your partner or your children minus all the hoopla of holiday guests then simply let guests know that you have plans to open gifts, take a holiday siesta, or simply reflect on the season with someone special (and state the time that is happening). To help move things along, you can always drop a few verbal reminders such as: “This has been so much fun,” “It was so wonderful to get to spend time with you,” or “Can I help you load anything into your car?” Usually that will present an opportunity to say goodbye for now!
3. Safety word.
I will offer a tip from the movie Four Christmases that I have actually resorted to using before. If you are in a partnership this information could benefit you greatly! Sometimes when there are in-laws involved, or even guests who you do not have much personal affiliation with, the vibe can be a bit unpredictable. Therefore, before you venture out into unchartered holiday territory, establish a “safety word” to use with your partner if you feel you have had enough and are ready to go. It is unlikely that you will have to use this tactic, but just in case some part of the situation becomes unbearable, drop the word “eggnog” or “cheese blintze” so your sweetie will know that you are ready to depart!
4. A good mantra.
It is a sure thing that getting together with loved ones can sometimes bring up unresolved feelings from the past or even stir up old family dynamics. That is why it is important to stay in-the-moment as much as possible. I find that a good mantra can be really helpful in this department. If you begin to feel pulled by someone’s attempts to ruffle your emotional feathers just lean on your mantra to keep you feeling centered. “The light in me sees the light in you” is a powerful one to say silently to yourself, or feel free to come up with your own that feels right to you. The main idea here is to call back your power if you start to feel lured into a vulnerable state. Before you engage in any attacking thoughts, bring yourself back into the moment and reset your energy with a deep breath and a mantra!
5. Have some fun!
If you want a little help structuring time spent with your family or friends, why not consider a conversation game to help steer the gathering in a positive direction? There are several good ones out there that could act as an icebreaker to get people feeling more comfortable and lighthearted. Perhaps you have a relative that is known for getting into topics that are controversial and not conducive to a feel-good mood. This is the perfect solution! At the very least it will help to neutralize the conversations and provide talking space for the introverts (who actually love to talk, by the way) and the extraverts (who are usually eager to share their ideas at will).
If you feel there may be old patterns or unresolved issues from your past that prevent you from enjoying your relationships with family members and you would like to work on gaining insight into these and releasing their hold on you, please contact one of our compassionate, trained counselors at Life Enhancement Counseling Services at (407) 443-8862 to schedule an appointment.
“Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin – How to Recognize and Set Healthy Boundaries” by Anne Katherine
by Shawn Meghan Burn, Ph.D.
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