I will be the first to raise my hand and admit - the holidays bring me a special kind of stress. (Who can relate??)
My parents are divorced and the holidays put me in a mental and emotional place that makes me feel ten years old - stuck in the middle between my parents. Add to the mix that I am newly married and trying to make sure my husband’s family doesn’t get ignored and you have a recipe for disaster.
Not to mention the expectations that are represented in every Christmas commercial, Instagram post or movie - that Christmas is a magical time that brings everyone together.
You know what? Sometimes Christmas kinda sucks. And I have a theory of why that is. It is a simple formula:
Unrealistic and/or unmet expectations
+ unstated and/or disrespected boundaries
= holiday stress
1. Unhook yourself from unrealistic expectations and standards.
Christmas presents, cards, cookies, decorations, family photos - those don’t have to be perfect. It is okay if they are actually kind of terrible, in fact. Because life is not perfect - December 25th rolling around doesn’t somehow change that fact.
2. Connect with feelings of sadness or anger over unmet expectations.
It is okay if you are angry, sad or frustrated because something did not go the way you hoped it would. It is okay to be disappointed that *that* family member disappointed you yet again. Release yourself from the pressure to act like everything is happy and perfect just because it is the holidays.
3. State your boundaries clearly and SOON.
Let others know what they can expect from you. “We would love to host Christmas again but this is not a good year for us.” “We would love to see you on Christmas day but we have to do XYZ instead. We are so sad to miss it.” Be clear and firm. And remind yourself that boundaries are not unkind - but that it is kind to yourself (and others!) to set healthy boundaries.
4. Have a plan for your boundaries that are not respected.
You asked your parents not to give your kids video games and they just unwrapped an Xbox - what are you going to do? You’ve asked your mom not to mention your ex-boyfriend and she brings it up over Christmas dinner. Plan for it! Maybe it means making an appointment with your counselor to prepare or asking a friend for coffee to talk through your options.
Christmas comes around once a year, bringing lights and trees and stress along with it. The good news is, this too shall pass and you’ll have another 365 days to prepare for next year.
The bad news is, this old ‘holiday stress’ news will continue to be news until you take steps to change the cycle. Sometimes you need someone to help talk you through how to set and enforce boundaries. If you think talking with a counselor could be helpful, call Bethel Haven at (706) 310-9046 to schedule an appointment with one of our counselors.
Written by our counselors to help promote your help, hope, healing