Notice I didn't say "if" the holidays suck. They will suck. Not every moment, hopefully, but a number of moments comprising the lethal combination of holiday reality and holiday fantasy will indeed suck. So what to do? Suggestions to reduce crappy holiday moments:
1) Lower your expectations. At the moment you feel the nagging sense of disappointment, ask yourself if the moment itself is bad or if it is only bad because you expected something else. A child going out with friends instead of languishing at the dinner table with grandparents isn't in itself crappy, it's only crappy in comparison to the vision in your own (and only your own) head of the extended family playing cards together all night. Let her bid everyone farewell and enjoy the evening yourself.
2) Be a less prepared host. All that time spent "getting things ready" is BOUND to be unrecognized and unrewarded, plunging you into a bad mood and an ugly tantrum (or at least that would be me....) Cut back. Do what you need and want to feel festive and not a drop more. No, you do not need to clean out that coat closet - throw the coats on the bed. No one will know you had the carpets cleaned...don't! Relax and enjoy your own party. Your guests are thrilled the gathering isn't at their house!
3) Carve out a little time for yourself. You only see these folks once a year so you feel obligated to spend every moment together....no go. You still need to recharge. Take a walk, call a friend across the country, take a long bath. The one hour to yourself will make all that togetherness more tolerable.
4) Stop trying to please everyone. That mother-in-law or aunt who never seems satisfied will NEVER BE satisfied; stop trying. We waste 90% of our energy on the 1% of our friends or family members who are high maintenance. Hold back. Let them figure out how to make the holidays work for them. If they're not happy - nothing lost -- they weren't going to be happy anyway but at least they didn't bring you down with them.
Want more tips and ideas for surviving the holidays? Book an appointment and come talk it through. Permission granted to whine.
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Debbie Granick is a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner and a Therapist in Raleigh providing both counseling and medication to reduce anxiety and depression and improve mental health. She is available to speak about wellness to groups of all sizes.