“Other than loss and loneliness, I think the number one reason people struggle with the holidays is the inability to say ‘no’.” Laura Ketchie, LPC
Holiday Scale of Stress
- Staying at someone else’s home or having others to stay at your home.
- Visiting multiple places in just matter of one or two days.
- Providing food for these different situations when you are not at home to cook or have the time.
- Sleeplessness (kids getting up early to see what Santa left, having a limited sleep due to late night parties, etc.)
- Unhealthy food/beverage consumption.
- Having to face awkwardness, unresolved family issues, anger, etc. that comes with being with family that you try to avoid year-round.
Staying at Someone Else’s Home
- Does the host family struggle with boundaries?
- Will you get a good night’s sleep?
- Is it safe to stay there? Is it safe for the children?
- Will staying at their house benefit or damage your relationship with them?
- Stay in a hotel.
- Pair staying in a hotel with some kind of excursion activity.
- Limit the amount of time that you stay. (Maybe only two nights instead of an entire week.)
- Write down expected boundaries and necessities and share that with the host.
- Don’t go every year.
Having Others To Stay At Your House
Here’s some questions to consider:
- Is this an idea that you want to become a tradition?
- What expectations do you have of your guests?
- Food preparation? Who supplies what when?
- When are you ready to receive guests?
- Do you have other activities that do not involve your guests?
- Sit down with your spouse and plan. Write down your expectations and rules for your guests. (Example: The office is off-limits. Bedtime/Quiet time is 11pm.)
- Clearly communicate your expectations and rules to your guests.
- Ask your guests if they have any expectations or needs.
- Write down a schedule for activities and meals.
- Tell them that you cannot host them this year.
Visiting Multiple Places in the Matter of One or Two Days
- With little children, it is getting them out of a routine which has numerous negative effects – poor eating, poor sleep, crankiness (for the children too), worn down & more susceptible to sickness, etc.
- More time spent traveling than with family.
- No quality time spent with anyone. (Just a lot of “Hi & Byes”)
- Rotate visitation. (Go to one side one year and the other the next.)
- Have them come to you. (Invite them to your house.)
- Visit one side the weekend before and the other side the weekend afterwards, but neither during the specific holiday.
- Just have the holiday with your nuclear family.
Providing Food When You Are Not Home To Cook Or Don’t Have the Time
Here’s some possible solutions:
- Cook something and freeze it a month earlier.
- Take shortcuts by buying pre-made food from your grocer’s deli.
- Agree to be the one who brings the paper products.
- Stop over-identifying with “what” you bring and put more focus on the “who” you will be with.
Results of Sleeplessness
- Irritability – snap at people.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- More susceptible to sickness.
- Greater car accident risk.
Solution for More Sleep
- Extra nap time for kids and adults.
- Allow for more time to travel. (Maybe leave a day early and stop and rest for the night.)
- Go to bed earlier on Christmas Eve.
- Sleep in late on the days afterward.
Unhealthy Food/Drink Consumption
The Holiday Consumption Mentality
- The more you eat the better time that you will have. (The same goes for alcohol consumption.)
- I must eat a lot to show the cook that I liked it.
- The food is so good I have to have seconds.
- If I don’t eat Aunt May’s dessert, she will be offended.
The Results of Over-Consumption
- You feel tired and don’t have much energy.
- System may get out of whack.
- You can’t move as well.
- If too much alcohol, you may end saying and doing things that harm your relationships.
- You model this habit to your children.
- You have a lower self-image.
The Some Solutions for Healthy Eating and Drinking
- Prepare raw vegetables & fruit as part of meal or to snack on.
- Begin making healthy food choices before the holidays.
- Have water as an option to drink.
- Limit the amount of alcohol available.
- Make a pact with your spouse to eat less or stop eating when full.
- Tell them “I’ll take some home with me to eat” as not to offend them.
Dealing With Awkward, Unresolved Family Issues
- Forget about trying to “change” the other person. Remember that you can only change you, and how you react to others.
- Ask yourself at any given time “How am I making assumptions?” Assumptions and faulty expectations grow like a snowball in an avalanche.
- Think of the fussy toddler rule. More than likely one of the reasons you feel agitated is that you’re hungry, tired, or cannot communicate your needs in a clear way. Learn to communicate. This means using “I feel statements” rather than the ALWAYS defensive “You statements.”
If You Must Talk About It ...
- Make sure you are assertive and not aggressive or passive.
- Before you open your mouth, make sure the atmosphere is appropriate.
- Both seated.
- No distractions. Think about your senses. Is there anything that will take away?
- Speak honestly and directly in a relaxed manner.
- Begin by using positive statements.
- Talk about the meat using “I feel” statements.
- Finish by talking about more positives.
“Being assertive is very intentional.” Vincent Ketchie, LPC