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It's Christmas and We're All In Misery By: Radonda Rowton MAC LPC


The holidays….aren’t they supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year? We decorate our homes, plan holiday parties, create menus with food that our family is sure to enjoy. We honor timeless traditions and buy gifts for each specific person in the family. Sounds wonderful, right? For some, yes, and for some, not so much. See, the problem is not the gifts or the food or the decorations. For many, the problem is FAMILY. It is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year…but only IF you get along with your extended family. 

 

So, one of my favorite Christmas movies is National Lampoons Christmas Vacation. Matter of fact, right after the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service, our family loves to order Asian food and watch, or rather see how long we can stay awake while watching the movie National Lampoons Christmas Vacation. Matter of fact, we go as far as to wear our t shirt, sweater or hoodie that quotes a line from the movie. One of my favorite quotes is about family. Ellen and Audrey are in the kitchen and Audrey is complaining about having to share a room with her brother, and that the grandparents are answering the phone and telling her friends that she is in the bathroom. Ellen, out of frustration, finally blurts out, “I don’t know what to say…it’s Christmas and we’re all in misery!”  

 

Misery? At Christmas? How is that possible, and how do we stop the misery? Excellent question! So many people deal with guilt during the holidays because when their family gets together, there is nothing enjoyable about it. Addiction issues, missing loved ones who have died, loneliness after divorce, fights with children, money troubles, indifference and lack of care and concern, and then the exhaustion for those trying to do too much with too little reward are more like the picture of the holidays for many. In fact, many people look at the holidays as just something to get through or a time of the year to be endured until the time comes where life can return to some kind of normalcy. 

 

If you are dreading your holiday season, there is hope. I invite you to consider taking a different approach this year. What if you could not only get through the holidays in a better frame of mind, but possibly even enjoy them just a little bit? If you know that the cycle you are on will likely be the same as it has been in the past, then I invite you to choose a different path this year. Does Aunt Mary do nothing but get on your nerves when you go to her house every year? Does Cousin Dave make sure he constantly puts you down for your choices or lifestyle? Do Mom and Dad never give you thoughtful gifts or even never remember to buy you anything at all? Here is an idea…don’t expect anything more from them. Aunt Mary will continue to be who she is, and Cousin Dave, and mom and dad will more than likely continue to be who they are. But you can choose to respond differently. You can change your perspective and instead of letting it get to you, you can accept them for who they are and let it roll off you instead. Have a friend at the ready who knows your story that you can text that will lend an understanding ear and will help you get through those frustrating moments. You might text and say, “Well, it happened again!” Ask them in advance to be ready with a reply that will be helpful to you. It could be a smiling emoji, a funny meme or something funny that will make you laugh. Instead of a negative response, have them give you a different response. 

 

If the holidays are lonely because of loss and you miss those you may have lost, make plans to be somewhere else during the holiday. There are many places that are full of people or furry beings who are longing for love and attention and would love to share this time with you. The best way to life sorrow and pain is to look for someone who really needs attention and the love that you have to give. Not only does it feel good to be helpful, but it will take your mind off your own sadness for a little while. 

 

Have a new plan this year. To be honest, if your family tends to follow a toxic holiday plan that causes you to dread showing up, please know that you can always go somewhere else and do something different. Yes, they will probably get mad and complain, and yes, they will probably try to make you feel guilty, but they will either get over it, or they will be so upset that you will be off the hook for next year. Find a friend or coworker or neighbor who would be happy to let you hang out with where you can have an enjoyable time and the air is breathable instead of choking the life out of you. Consider it as you, starting your own holiday tradition. 

 

If you have the resources, consider shopping for someone in need this year. There are so many great organizations that support those less fortunate during the holidays. If you can’t afford to shop, consider volunteering. Being a part of helping those in need during the holidays can be so uplifting, and again, it puts your focus on someone other than you. Learning to focus on the needs of others causes us to make our situation smaller, while focusing just on us, makes it bigger. 

 

If neither one of those ideas work, be purposeful in doing something completely different. Go on a trip, watch a movie and gorge on popcorn, find some outside activities like biking, hiking, or taking a day trip somewhere. Just decide to occupy yourself and entertain yourself and give yourself permission to enjoy it. 

 

If you absolutely, positively must attend holiday events with those who irritate and frustrate you, plan to deal with their recurring irritations differently this year. Keep yourself out of fights or potential arguments. By that, I mean, remove yourself from the scene. Step outside for a breath of fresh air. Have a mindful mantra that calms you down and reorients your mind away from what upsets you. Have it be something positive like a song or remember something you read that was important to you and uplifts you when you recall it.  

 

Remember, you don’t get to choose your relatives like you do your friends. Further, you don’t have the power to change anyone else but yourself. However, you do have the right to remove yourself and not participate in any conversation or fight that goes on around you. If you have a strategy in place to know what to do differently, chances are the holidays will be over before you know it because you allowed yourself the freedom to have a better experience. 

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