Ho! Ho! Holy Emotions!

The hustle and bustle of the holidays has sprung into action!! Black Friday now in the books, Small Business Saturday hitting the streets now… and holiday music filling the stores and radio stations for the next several weeks!! What a wonderful time of year… what great cheer we all have…

Except, that’s not always the case.

In this competitive and now overly-commercialized culture… it’s easy to put the whole weight of the world… er… in the case of the above picture, the whole weight of the Christmas Tree… on your shoulders in an attempt to make the holidays enjoyable for everyone in your world…

The problem that many people face during this time of year is that people put everyone’s joy and happiness into the forefront and often sacrifice their own joy and happiness… 

Why?

Here are the top reasons people report feeling down during the holidays (and all of them are a direct result of putting others’ wants ahead of one’s own needs).

1.) People go above and beyond to satisfy their families’ holiday wishes.  Whether this be where and when the festivities take place or what to get and how much to spend on gifts… in an attempt to be in the holiday spirit, people forget to say the healthiest word in their vocabulary: no.  Instead they say things like “Sure! We can be there!” “Yes! I’ll have it at my house!” “Not a problem, I’ll pack up my family and drive 6 hours each way…” and “Oh, yes! Of course you’ll get that newest technology, dear 15 year old child… because that totally quantifies my love for you!”  People are left struggling to make it to all their promised events, families grow tired (and grumpy) in an attempt to get to every location, and families struggle to make ends meet because they will feel guilty if they don’t get the gaming system that their all-star student athlete honor student totally deserves… 

2.) People (temporarily) ignore their boundaries. Toxic Aunt Shirley and her twice as toxic 5 kids are going to be at the family party… you successfully (and blissfully) have finally cut ties during the year… and then BAM!! HOLIDAY GUILT TRIPS eventually work on you… so you (begrudgingly) pack up your family to appease Grandma Esther (even though you see her every week like clockwork) and get the reward of Aunt Shirley pitting those 5 entitled kids against you and your family about that one time 12 years ago that she had a cold and you brought her soup with no crackers… her kids tell your kids how selfish you are and your kids tell them some words they probably aren’t allowed to say… and BAM!! HOLIDAY FAMILY FIGHT! All because of one forgotten (ignored because of feeling guilty) word… no. (I’m sensing a theme here… but don’t worry, it probably is done now…).

3.) Missing loved ones. Unfortunately, everyone who has lost someone special to them has had to suffer through trying to be happy during the first holiday (well, the first year of events and holidays… and then every year thereafter while grieving is still active) without their loved ones who have passed. Sometimes getting together is therapeutic for families during those holidays… and sometimes that void is so big that the gatherings are just filled with reminders that your loved one isn’t there.  It is excruciatingly painful… but in an attempt to get back to “normal”, people agree to go with the flow of this.  Sometime’s it is a great way to share memories with those you love.  Other times, it might not be a bad idea to skip this year… Yes, I said it.  Some people feel the need to skip the gatherings in order to more graciously survive the first year without… and that is not selfish. Unfortunately, in an attempt to please others, those who identify with the desire to skip this year are often met with an extreme level of guilt (whether it comes from within or whether it comes from well-intentioned relatives) when they request to do things differently this year.  And they go anyway.  There’s really no right way to have the first holidays after a loss… but my tip is this: take care of your needs first.  If going to a holiday gathering is what will fill your heart, do that.  If it will tear your heart to pieces, don’t.  Practice Self-Care!!!!

4.) Keeping Up with the Jones’s. Enough said.  Let’s just not.  Whether you have the finances to do that or not, don’t do the holiday gift-giving, tradition-keeping, vacation-planning, money-spending in an attempt to impress anyone.  If you’re a parent whose kids try to guilt you into competing with the “but Billy’s parents got him a gaming console and a tree house with heat and wifi and a bed and a maid” line… practice the famous line that your parents most likely said to you when you came to them with that outlandish type of request (er, demanding guilt trip)… Ready? Say it with me!! “I’m not Billy’s Parents!  *Whoa… it’s like your parents took over your voice box and said the thing you swore you would never say to your kids… and it felt… AMAZING!*  Again, magic word: no. While you’re busy trying to keep up with them, they’re busy trying to impress someone else… there is no winning in this game so just don’t play it.
 

5.) Being Far Away from Loved Ones. This one, like number 3, is super tough. It’s hard to feel like you’re missing out while everyone you know seems to have a way to get to their families.  And while there’s no duplicating your own family traditions and fun, there are local events that happen during the holidays that help those without local families to socialize and feel less isolated. See what events are local to you during the holidays (simple google search).  Reach out to local friends… they might have a Toxic Aunt Shirley on their hands and could use an “out”… or they might have an open door policy at their holiday gathering for friends who want to come, too!  I won’t pretend it’s the same as being where your first choice would be, but it beats feeling isolated…

Here’s the deal: Holiday Stress is a very real thing.  Whether your stress relates to the 5 reasons above or it relates to things that were totally missed here, it is real.  One thing that all of us can use a reminder about is that it is up to us and only us to keep our own light shining.  Being assertive with others with your needs is one of the surest ways to do just that without dimming the lights of others. So here’s your validation: you do not owe anybody anything during the holidays (or ever).  You only owe it to yourself to take care of your needs.  Do that.  It will feel right in the end… and your holiday emotions miiiiiight just be a little merrier.  And who doesn’t like merry?  I do!! I like it because I like smiling… it’s my favorite!

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