Deciding what to do for the holidays can cause a lot of stress for couples, whether newly together or long married. It’s really the time when the pull of family bumps up against your unit. I always advise couples that the best time to face this is the first holiday season you are together. That’s because it’s easier to set a precedent than deal with others’ expectations. But, it is never too late.
I had it easy in some respects. My husband and my families were separated by the continental United States. We never had to deal with dueling families but we that didn’t mean we didn’t face expectations. For most of my marriage, my in-laws were within driving distance. So, decisions still needed to be made about where to go, when, and for how long.
Getting those logistics settled is hard enough. Toss in all the other expectations that are part and parcel of the holidays and it can quickly become overwhelming. If that’s you, then the time to do something about is now!
The first thing to do is step back and take a deep breath. Take a moment and write down all the things that are on the “should” list. (For those of you familiar with me, you will know this is my least favorite word in the English language.) People you are supposed to visit, parties you’re supposed to attend, gifts you’re supposed to buy, decorations you’re supposed to put up, food you’re supposed to fix—all of it.
Are you exhausted yet?
The next thing is to go through and identify the things you really want to do. Now is the time to get ruthless. Don’t worry about other people’s expectations or feelings at this moment. Go with your gut. More importantly, go with your joy.
How long is the list now? Feeling better?
If you’re having difficulty breathing because of the anxiety you’re feeling, that’s okay. Stick with me.
Take a look at what you’ve eliminated and ask yourself what will really happen if you don’t do those things. Somebody might be disappointed. That’s okay. Identify who they are and what their disappointment is all about. Would you really be leaving them in the lurch if you say “no”? Or would they be just fine? If you’re honest, it’s most likely the latter. If so, then let it go.
Go back to the list and look at the things left. Are there any that you can deal with in a different way that reduces your stress? Let someone else help or maybe spend less time or stay at a hotel. Just because something has always been done a certain way doesn’t mean it has to continue. After all, as I like to ask, do you still use an outhouse?
This isn’t about doing anything to someone else. It’s about doing something for you. Making yourself less crazed is a gift not just to you, but to everyone around you. Isn’t that something to celebrate?
If you need help figuring out what to let go of or how to cope with what you’ve chosen to continue, I invite you to join me on my call this month—either Tuesday, November 14th at 5 pm EST or Thursday, November 16th at noon EST. Call in information: (712-770-4010, Access Code: 318250#)
Until then, stay loving!