With Thanksgiving approaching, we thought we’d treat everyone to a throwback episode from last year–Your Holiday Survival Guide, in which we discuss making the most of—or simply get through—these family/friend reunions. We discuss our roughest holiday memories, along with some of our nicer ones. Also, birthday spells and the pains of non-sleeping toddlers
Listen to this: Surviving the Holidays
The holidays can bring a unique set of challenges. While they’re supposed to be the ‘most wonderful time of the year’, if things aren’t all perfect and joyful in your life, they can serve as a cruel magnifying glass for what’s missing or broken.
This article from Psychology Today has some pretty poignant accounts from people who have to grit their teeth through the November-December month, as well as other potentially painful holidays, like Mother’s day. The author, Peg Streep, gives some pretty gem recommendations (particularly for daughters) for dealing with these issues (I’ve summarized them a bit here):
1. Take an emotional inventory
Keep in mind that there’s nothing you can do to change how others act or react, but there is much you can do about your own responses. Pay attention to your triggers. The more conscious and aware you are of your feelings—the more emotionally intelligent you are—the better off you’ll be.
2. Work on managing your thoughts and feelings
Remember that there’s a meaningful difference between “reflecting” on your thoughts and feeling and “ruminating” about them. Rumination is a cycle of repetitious thoughts which can leave you sleepless or wake you up in the middle of the night; it can be a precursor to depression. Pay heed to the difference, especially in this season.
3. Set personal goals for yourself
You want to be as clear as you can be about what you want to get out of this holiday season. If you are attending a family function because you want to see someone specific or you are visiting your very difficult and critical mother because you’ve decided you want your children to know her, focus on what you intend to get out of the experience. Remind yourself that your mother doesn’t have the power she once had over you when you lived under her roof and that you aren’t helpless.
4. Set boundaries ahead of time
It’s practical, not pessimistic, to anticipate the possible pitfalls at a family gathering. Think about how you’ll react to various challenges—and what you will and won’t do.
5. It’s okay to disengage
Many daughters feel enormous pressure not just to make the holidays perfect but feel responsible for everyone’s happiness, even their mothers’. If you’ve done the work of setting goals and delineating boundaries, you will already realize that you don’t have a magic wand at hand to make the holidays conform to the culture’s rosy expectations. Do what you can not to fall into the trap of trying to “fix” things on the spot; disengage if you need to.
6. Be kind to yourself
This time of year—traditionally one of family “togetherness”—makes many people feel isolated and alone, as if they are the “only” ones whose families fall short of those idealized commercials and images the culture bombards us with… If you feel stressed, do something to relieve that stress—something that gives you pleasure. This doesn’t mean that you need to buy yourself gifts but that you acknowledge your own needs and their validity.
7. Feed your sense of joy
It’s true enough that, for many of us, the holidays divert our attention to memories of the past, not all of them pleasant. Do your best to focus on what gives you pleasure, so that you can put yourself in charge of your joy. Small things and large bring each of us joy, and it’s important we work at staying open to those things so we can be joyous.
I’ll just add a few more tips from the American Psychological Association:
- Take time for yourself
- Have realistic expectations
- Remember what’s important
- Seek support
I think these are all pretty useful. But I’ll also add that–since it IS Thanksgiving, it really helps to actually exercise those gratefulness muscles that we so often let go unused. It’s not just a lot of New Agey feel-good hoo-ha, either. Listen to this nugget from Scientific American:
“Grateful adults report higher levels of well-being, regardless of age, gender, or marital status. This effect even holds after you control for other relevant personality traits, like neuroticism (or moodiness), extraversion, openness, agreeableness, or how forgiving a person tends to be. Over and above all of these variables, there is still a significant, positive relationship between gratitude and subjective well-being.”
I think we all know this. But it bears repeating. Let’s all try focusing on what good things we have this holiday season….we’ll do it if you guys do….
Happy Thanksgiving – Love Lauren and Maayan
From Lauren: Giving Thanks
From Maayan: Kick Ass Spicy Peptias – so perfect for the holiday