If Holidays are a Game, These are the Rules:
Ten Rules to Make the Holidays Fun!
by: Chérie Carter-Scott, Ph.D.
You will be sent invitations
You will be invited to family events, parties, and functions. You may want to attend all of them, some or them, or none of them. What is important is that you dig a little deeper and determine what is attracting you to the events and what is causing you to draw back. In each event there will be pros and cons, both in terms of people, places, and potential occurrences. If you anticipate what might happen in advance and map out a strategy to successfully deal with potential difficulties, it will help ensure that things will go smoothly, and possibly be fun and fulfilling! Here are some questions to ask yourself:
1) When I think of (X) event, I feel___________
2) The reason I feel this way is because____________
3) I am concerned that __________might happen
The answers to these questions will help you pinpoint what your reservations, concerns, or fears are and in so doing you can create strategies to ensure that your concerns are not manifested.
Now answer these questions:
1) In order to deal with this concern, I must_______________
2) I can ask these people _____________for support
3) I can do ______________ to take care of myself and manage stress
You will be offered food
You will be offered food in various forms over the holidays. Some of the food will be welcomed and relished. Other types of food might be a temptation for you. Still other food groups might sabotage your overall health and eating plan and cause you to have a Negattack. Before you accept invitations, have a meeting with yourself and establish your game plan. Determine what are your: “Yes” categories, your “Maybe” and “One Bite” categories, and your “No go” areas. Make an agreement with yourself regarding all three categories, put it in writing, and sign it. Then before you go to any holiday event, read this document. If you feel seriously at risk, take a copy of it with you in your purse or pocket so that in case you get amnesia you can refer to what you previously chose and committed. You can have a “delicious experience,” but if you spend the rest of the night (or week) beating yourself up for what you ate, it just isn’t worth the rift created between you and you! Anticipate, plan, set yourself up for success and then finally, cause it to happen.
You will encounter people from your past
During the holidays you encounter people whom you love from the past and regret that you rarely get to see them. You also will encounter people whom you know you will see yet wish you could avoid them. People whom you did not anticipate seeing could easily throw you off center with their presence freezing you in your tracks. The first group of people is not a problem because they warm your heart and give you a wonderful feeling. The second group you can plan for because they always show up at annual events. The third group is the potential high-risk group. This group includes those to whom you have a high emotional reaction. Here are some steps you can take…
1) List anyone who might make you uncomfortable
2) Write out what you might say to them so you are not caught off guard
3) Determine what you want to do if you encounter one of those people so that your evening is not derailed
4) Acknowledge yourself for any and all strides toward functional behavior!
You will need to manage expectations
An expectation is the anticipation of something happening, based on past experiences; the expectation provides ideas and images of probable, possible, and also desired outcomes.
People will have expectations of you and you will also have expectations of others. This is normal and happens everyday. If you have shed ten pounds in the last six months, you might have a relative approach you and say, “You are looking so skinny! We must feed you, you’ll waste away to nothing!” You need to be prepared to respond to that statement, without slapping the person or inhaling a slice of pie. If a friend says, “I heard about your divorce. So sorry to hear about that, but we all knew it wouldn’t work out. It was never meant to be!” Think of possible responses that won’t alienate the friend. You could say, I feel the same way about your husband but this might not be so user-friendly. Anticipating what people might say prevents you from standing in front of the pumpkin pie speechless.
Stress is an option
Being stressed over the holidays is a definite option. If you simply go with the flow, count on being stressed. Holidays bring with them the challenge of managing multiple tasks and getting everything accomplished without feeling burdened or worn out. Cards, cooking, parties, decorating, gifting, shopping, and getting dressed up are all part of the holiday experience. They can be fun or burdensome. If you take the holidays in little bite size pieces, a little each day, so that you don’t overwhelm yourself, you will be able to manage better. Plan out what you will do when. Carve out appointments with yourself on your calendar or agenda and book in the activities. Watch out pressuring yourself to get everything done in the time allotted. Pressure during the holidays is not helpful. Take each activity, choose it, and make it fun!
Comparing yourself to others can be a trap
Julie is thinner. Megan has whiter teeth. John has a better wardrobe. Tony has a much cooler car. You can always find someone who has something better than you. There is no challenge to the comparison game. You can spend all your time noticing people who are better off or worse off. It doesn’t take a lot of intelligence to do that. Around the holidays this tendency can become totally out of control. There will always be a better host or hostess. There will always be someone who buys better gifts. There will always be someone who makes better stuffing or a tastier turkey. The opportunity here is to determine if you want to appreciate others for their level of excellence and learn from them rather than feel insufficient and diminished in their shadow. The choice is completely up to you. The holidays will be much more enjoyable if you can use the brilliance of other to inspire you rather than depress you. This holiday season use your journal to appreciate what you experience and not what you can do to improve. If looking down on others is your proclivity, then see if you can use your talents to teach, coach, or nurture their greatness.
Perfectionism can rob you of your joy
If you are “Perfectionistic,” you could actually ruin your holidays. Perfectionism means that you must be perfect in every way and there is no room for human error or mistakes. The pressure to be perfect can limit your experience of joy and satisfaction. Doing everything perfectly is not realistic and it is riddled with shades of insecurity. If you do everything perfectly it means that you close the gap for anyone to criticize you. It means that you cannot learn anything since perfection is the top of the line. It also means that if you don’t achieve perfection that you will beat your self mercilessly for not being the best at everything. To overcome perfectionism, you must give yourself permission to be human, to make mistakes, and to learn from those mistakes. If you can give yourself permission to be an imperfect human then your holidays will have the possibility of being much more fun than perfect.
Financial restrictions can make you feel small
You may be on a limited budget. In times of financial challenge you come to the realization that you need to change some of your spending habits from the past. What can you give that is a part of you? What can you offer that represents your creativity and generosity of spirit? What can you share that will express your caring without causing you financial stress? Consider making something for friends and family. If you bake, consider cookies or special nut breads. If you work with your hands, perhaps beaded items might be perfect. If you communicate well, perhaps a poem or short story might bring a smile and a warm feeling. When you give of yourself people appreciate the time, the thought, and the intention behind the gift that rarely comes with a store bought item. Remember that the greatest gift you can give to another is your love and that comes directly from the heart. Open your heart and let it speak with the words of love.
If you get stuck in the past you could miss the present
You may have hurts or wounds from the past as most people do. Perhaps you are spending this holiday season without a loved one who has always been present in years gone by. Suppressing the feelings doesn’t make them go away. Overriding them is not a solution either. If you are experiencing loss, tell the truth about the pain you experience. Then after you tell the truth allow your creativity to dictate some options to transcending the loss, or emptiness. You might wrestle with this because the memories keep drawing you back to familiar memories. Hang in there and persevere. You can overcome this. Focus on what would give you joy. Often focusing on giving to others gets our attention off of ourselves. Volunteering to feed hungry people, going to hospitals to distribute gifts, visiting a nursery or orphanage will allow you to give energy to those who are much more alone than you are. Ask yourself what would enable you to feel great about yourself and then just do it. You’ll be glad that you did.
Receiving graciously is an art form
Wouldn’t it be great if everyone always gave the right gifts? Yes, but we don’t live in a perfect world. People often give what they want to receive. They give what will get the job done with minimum stress. They recycle something that was previously given to them. As a result you receive something that you can’t even imagine exists on the planet. At moments like this you want to be gracious and grateful for the gift that says, “I tried even if I didn’t succeed.” At these times consider yourself as a “gift terminal.” Upon receiving something that you will never use or wear you can well imagine a person who will delight in the very same gift. In January there are “White Elephant Parties” that are given to exchange gifts that were mistakenly given to the wrong person. If you are not invited to one of these events, then throw your own party. Gather together all of the “mistakenly received” gifts and recycle them so that they finally reach the right person. Receiving graciously is a talent that requires that you look beyond the material gift to the intention of the person who is giving it. Connect with the intent and you will be filled with gratitude!
The holidays can go either way. They can be wonderful or difficult. To make sure that the holidays are precious times to be remembered for years to come you must do some preparation in anticipation of what might possibly happen. You must manage yourself and your expectations. You must deal with the unforeseen. If you do all of these things, you will have truly wonderful holidays that you will treasure forever!
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©MMS Institute, LLC 2011