Coping with the Holidays

Coping with the Holidays

by Susan Neuhalfen & Christy Graham, Acorn Counseling Services

Tis the season for present giving, New Year’s resolutions, eating, parties and, of course, family. What should be one big happy couple of weeks can become very stressful. Argyle Living sat down with Christy Graham, head cheerleader at Acorn Counseling Education Services in Corinth by Oakmont to discuss coping with the holidays.

Here are some questions we hear frequently at Acorn:

How do I protect my kids [from negative relative behavior/statements] while still connecting with my family?

Wow, this is a complicated maneuver, even when you have a great family! Our families are always the first to hug us and then tell us what we are doing wrong. First, talk with your children about expectations for behavior and short term, clear consequences for misbehavior. Next, have a code red. Give your kids a signal to tell you they need to talk with you about something and tell them the kinds of things to use it for: injury either physical or emotional, feelings of being unsafe, etc. Third, think realistically about the type of gathering and whether you and your family can thrive there. You can always plan to attend but stay a shorter amount of time or connect with specific family later.

My Dad died this year. Thinking about the holiday reminds me of him and its like he just died today.

Get support. Not everyone understands how difficult this time is for you, but those that do understand are out there.

Start a new tradition that honors your Dad. Rituals and traditions help us to work through our life story by adding to our lives and not subtracting from them.

Be present and aware of your emotions. You don’t have to be over it or get through it. Sometimes, you just have to take a break from the celebrations and honor your Dad by missing him.

Do beware of negative coping skills like isolation and drinking and make plans to avoid problematic behaviors.

There is one member of our family, and I won’t mention her name, that I just can’t stand.

First, remember that your family includes a lot of people. Spending time talking with those we love and who love us makes life sparkle! So don’t isolate yourself from the family.

Second, set clear boundaries for yourself and for the family. If open conflict occurs, be clear about the boundary that was crossed and then excuse yourself to the next room or
simply leave.

Third, be honest with yourself about what actually happens. If there is something you can do to lessen the conflict and still feel honest, do that. Sometimes, it really is as simple as “if you have nothing good to say, say nothing at all”. Go with the idea that you will focus on the positive things happening and the positive people that are there and your enjoyment of the event will go way up.

I’ve been on Facebook and Pinterest so often, trying to plan the ‘perfect’ Christmas that my phone’s screen protector has worn out. Help! I’ve got to give my family ‘the best’!

No, you don’t. No one is perfect and having a perfect holiday season is impossible and causes so much stress, you can’t even connect. Research shows, when you are stressed, you connect less, remember less, and are less attuned to the needs of others around you. So calm down! Plan the ‘Good Enough Christmas’ that has room for the things that everyone loves-including you!

Start by asking what the season actually means to you. For those of us who are religious, the season has a special meaning that can get lost in the midst of the chaos of presents and rush. For others of us, the time has a special feel and a wonderful focus on relationships and family. Find the 2 or 3 most meaningful things and do those well. Then you are free to explore and be present at all the serendipitous wonderful memory making opportunities that abound at this time of year.

End by being completely present with the relationships around you. Finding time to connect can be difficult, but face-to-face eye contact time fills your emotional bucket and allows you to weather the real crises in life.


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