It’s The Most Wonderful Time of The Year…Or Is It? – The Personal Side

Christmas dinner and you are the host.  Here is what you are thinking as your guests arrive.  You must remember not to offer your best friend’s mother a glass of wine because she is a recovering alcoholic.  You must remember not to talk to your grandfather about his failing health because last year when you did so he became irritable.  You must remember not to talk to your aunt about the recent Presidential election.  And you must remember not to talk to your mother about anything substantial because she is extremely emotionally reactive following your father’s recent death.  And the list goes on. 

Christmas and Thanksgiving can be challenging holidays, especially when it comes to spending time with family.  The saying goes we pick our friends, NOT our family.  Nevertheless, when it comes to spending time with family members there are some things you can do to prevent emotional stress.

1)       Be prepared:  Consider beforehand who you will spend time with and what you will talk about.  Avoid hot topics.

2)      Have a planned response and “escape plan”:  When spending time with difficult family members, imagine the worst case scenario and what your response will be if it takes place.  For example, if you have asked your alcoholic parent not to drink in front of your children, have a plan for what to say and/or do if they should do so.

3)      Protect yourself:  It is okay to turn down requests to spend time with family members who you feel will wreak too much havoc on your emotional health.  If you choose to spend time with notoriously difficult family members have a plan of what to say/do if things start to get out of hand.  Also, have an “escape plan” (see number 2).

I try to practice the three things listed above to reduce my stress level during the holidays.  I also do other things.  To reduce financial stress, I make a Christmas budget and stick to it.  To reduce feelings of depression, I try to focus on who is left at Christmas dinner and not who is missing because of sickness, death or irreconcilable differences.  To make memories and engender special moments of joy, I engage in specific traditions with my family members every year—some I have created and others that have been handed down from generations past.

Nowadays, the holidays are mostly a joyous time for me because I try to celebrate them deliberately, keeping my mind focused on the positive.  However, the holidays can still be a very stressful time of year for me and so many others.  If you are having a difficult time with the approaching holidays or are feeling stressed, anxious or depressed a counselor can help you.  A licensed mental health counselor can help you process your feelings and identify and implement ways to cope with the holiday season.  If you would like to speak to a licensed mental health counselor please call Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862.


Yolanda Brailey