Dec 14th, 2010 by admin
If the holidays are so much fun and all of us look forward to them, why is it that people like me – psychotherapists and counselors – are the busiest at this time of the year?
Simply put, it is because being with family is the most enjoyable and yet the most stressful of experiences. Maybe we need to spend some time with a relative we don’t particularly care for, or one we definitively dislike. Or we worry about how two relatives who haven’t spoken to one another in a long time will fare when they will find themselves in the same room for the first time. Or we worry about how to behave around the in-laws, particularly if we are a new addition to their family. And what about cultural and religious complications, or if our children don’t behave politely as we would like them to do?
Add to all this the pressure of “we should all be happy during the holidays’ expectation, and, last but not least, the financial strains that holidays bring to an already stretched budget and it is easy to see why holidays can become a sure recipe for disaster.
Well, I have seen many holidays come and go in my life, but I haven’t yet seen any insightful way of making changes to them. What’s the matter with us? Aren’t we supposed to learn from past mistakes? Well, yes, but somehow the holidays seem to be immune from the good lessons from the past, even with the best of intentions. I often hear people say, “next year I will do things differently. I am not going to spend so much money. I am not going out of my way to do things for my family, as what I do is not appreciated…” These promises last from January to June at the most, though and then we forget about the hurts and disappointments and mindlessly start to plan for the next holidays. Like lemmings, we march in group towards them, knowing all their pitfalls, but irrationally believing this year they will be better…
What can you do to stay focused on what you need to do?
Think of an instrument that measures the level of stress, a “stressometer” of sorts, that you can regularly use to check your level of stress as you would check your blood pressure, or your blood sugar level. Is it too high? You know it’s time to relax and stop what you are doing. It is time to reassess your priorities; time to remember how you felt during past holidays and learn from those experiences. Perhaps you shouldn’t invite that relative who argues and irritates everybody. Perhaps you should cut shorter your list of gifts, and make it more meaningful. It your level of stress low? Perhaps there is still some room to get the last thing done before you run out of time. Be your own judge in what needs to be done and what can be skipped. You will have much nicer memories to cherish.