Posted by: Ask Arden | December 6, 2009

Stress Solutions for the Holidays

How often do you find yourself dreading the holidays? So many people feel their stress levels soaring.

This year with our economy in recovery we are all thinking about trimming the fat so to speak. That means our gift giving is so much more cost-effective .  Some of us are just spending  cash  and not using our credit cards. With all the emphasis on paying down our debt,  (thanks Suzie Orman) our guilty conscience is in the forefront of our minds.

There is another part of our anxiety peaking and that is spending time with our family for holiday dinners etc., I recall a patient of mine rolling her eyes, not looking forward to her obligatory extended Christmas visit.  She had long given up “changing” her victimized mom who basically financially supported the family. Her dad, a long time chronic alcoholic in recovery, still was like Peter Pan, not quite grown up! She would get so worked up and would count the days until her return to the City.

So why do we still go to holiday functions, extended stays at Moms even though we really do not want to. I have accumulated a dirth of responses over the years. Most recently from a Mom, “I want my girls to have a connection with my family, even though they are not very nice to me.” So it’s like I still want to have a connection even though there are problems.

Another Mom says that she works hard at making her extended family feel good so that the dinners and visits will go more smoothly. She feels though, resentment, anger and disappointment beneath the surface and feels she gives so much more than she gets. Sound familiar to you?

 Some Moms  hope to “change” their extended family for the better. Oh, is that a tough one! What makes you think that they will be any different, just because it’s a holiday?

Here are a few tips and strategies  to cope with the stress of a holiday extended visit and dinners:

Please do not expect too much and lower your bar. I think that the holidays, in general, brings out the worst in some very difficult people to begin with. Making the best of it is a wise direction.

Stay clear of any or all debates especially on religion, politics or anything that potentially could blow up in your face. Keep it, sorry to say, superficial and safe.

When you feel your anger, hurt, disappointment, jealousy or anything coming up that could create a stir, remove yourself from the table.

Go for a walk, get some air, be appreciative of the beauty of nature and just take a breath!

If  little children are present, I find it helpful to play and stay with them. Kids can be a different kind of high maintenance, but your guilt and other complicated feelings will not be stirred up. Children are like a salve for me. Their purity, innocence and happiness just makes me feel better.

Know for a fact that people only modify their behavior when they are ready to not because you want them to.

Know also that your teen children may roll their eyes,  sound like they do not want to be there and may embarrass you. Please let it blow over you. Remember this to will pass. Perhaps next year you may modify your visit and focus on what will be in your and your immediately families best interests. Especially after getting a belly full of upset.

A positive note though, I had the best Thanksgiving ever with our kids, Sam, Todd, Nick, our son’s best pal, our niece Julie, 11 and nephew Jonny, 14 my brother Howie and his wife Susan.

We sang, played games and had delicious food. A great time was had by all. I know I was in great spirits when I calmly saw my husband moping up and my brother using paper towels to sop up a major mess in the oven and on the floor. Unfortunately our turkey pan was way too small for our 22 pounder and you can guess what happened once the turkey was cooked. Oooopsy! Next year, yes we will have a  bigger pan or just double it or as a few people have suggested, have a cookie sheet under the pan. Oh, yes that makes lots of sense.

So, it is possible to have a very fun time especially if you really truly are looking forwarded to spending time with people you enjoy to be with and you keep it light and fun!

Happy Holidays




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