Thanksgiving is upon us, and the rest of the holiday season isn’t far behind. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, Solstice, all of them, none of them, or something else entirely, I’m sure you’ve been affected. In fact, you’re probably being affected by it right now.
I was reading in a poll done by Think Finance recently that 45% of Americans would be happy to skip the holidays entirely due to financial concerns and other stresses. I also took an informal poll of my friends recently about their biggest holiday concerns, and there seemed to be a theme around expectations – those others have of us, the ones we have of ourselves, and the ones we have of others – the pressure that everything has to be happy and good and come out well in the end, the amount of money one is expected to spend on various family members and colleagues, and the inevitable post-holiday let down. The funny thing was, they each thought they were the only one who would like to boycott the holidays. So if you’re already tired of the commercials, you’re in the right place!
I’d like to begin with expectations we have of others because I think it will be a good way to ease into the rest. Have you noticed that as many times as Uncle Joe causes trouble at the holidays, we always expect that this year will be different? He assures us that he’s not going to do it this year, not going to drink too much and set off the rest of the family, and in the holiday spirit, we believe him. And then we’re disappointed again when he does. You may not have an Uncle Joe, but you probably have someone in your life like this. We expect things to happen or not happen, though every rational thought in our heads tell us otherwise.
How different would our experience be if we decided to expect that things will happen as they usually do? Someone is going to argue with someone else, one of the plates will be chipped, the dog is going to beg throughout the entire meal regardless of how many times we say “no!”, and no one is going to respect our political views. If we expect it, we have a better chance of doing something different about it. We can request that politics not be a topic of conversation, or we can leave the room when it does. We can come in with our own topics of conversation that we know will be more peaceful. And we can have an exit strategy for when we feel disrespected.
I hope this gets to you in time for the Thanksgiving holiday so you can have a plan. Test it out, and see what works and what does. You’ll be able to use that information at the next holiday you celebrate, which may be coming very soon.
Contact Mantis Counseling and Coaching Services if you want a consultation about how to deal with holiday issues: stress, finances, family and friends, or anything else. We will be continue on this topic of holiday stress for the next couple of blogs, and we’ll also be presenting this information at the First Unitarian Church of Denver on December 1, so come out and see us there, too!