Welcome to the week of Thanksgiving and the 2019 holiday season. If you are joining me in SW Florida, you know its season because it already takes you an extra twenty-eight minutes longer to get anywhere. My son drove home from school last week and one day walking through the door stating, “Now I get what you mean by driving during season.” Yes, we felt a tinge of validation mixed with higher anxiety as it is his first season driving during SW Florida season (Life 360 can have its benefits).
All kidding aside, the holiday season hopes to bring about excitement and fun. However, it can also lend to feelings of anxiety, overwhelm, and stress for many of us.
For the last nineteen years of my practice sessions fill consistently from October on. Let me share your reasons why. First, often with holidays come expectations. Your host may be striving to get great grandma’s apple pie just right. Remember, a table will be filled with family all wanting to taste the memory filled mixture of warmth and apple. That can be a high stress platform for any person stuck in perfectionism. Family gatherings can trigger uncomfortable emotions when there is past or present grief. Often people come in my office overwhelmed with their own list of “should do’s” or the expected “to do’s” from others. If you’ve worked with me in the office, you know the fun we have around the concept of “should.”
Expressing You Expectations Can Help Things Go More Smoothly
To circle around to the concept of expectations, no one and I truly mean no one will know your expectations unless you share them. You may be reading this thinking, my family has known me my entire life and they know how I want things to go, what help I want, and how I’m envisioning Thanksgiving to go. The challenge with this is that each of these individuals have their own life going on. They may have their own life stressors, concerns, or unsettled feelings. Many of us may not even be aware of such because too often we tend to internally “hush” these things during the holidays. It is not because they are not wanting to share necessarily, but people often don’t want to burden others or be “the downer” of the get together. Rather than using tremendous brain power trying to figure out why Aunt Jackie is not her bubbly self, lets let her know we are here and save some thinking power to the homemade stuffing and simplify things by only being aware of our own expectations and expressing them to others. You’ve let Aunt Jackie know you see her (not as her usual self) and if she wants to talk you are here.
If you just took a huge gulp at the phrase, “expressing them to others” don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.
Here’s To Your A, B, Cs To Your Peaceful Thanksgiving
“A” is for Acknowledge
It’s Monday 9am and I know there are hundreds of items on your to do list. Before you start tackling (and hoping delegating some of them) give yourself ten minutes to sit, journal, drift off into a quiet space to get clear on how you want this holiday to go.
Perhaps you’re sitting there and a voice whispers to you part of you hoped you traveled this holiday. Don’t “shh” it. Write it down and perhaps re-explore that idea next year and if it still has a powerful feel give it attention to explore what that may look like.
At the end of last summer, I started thinking about Thanksgiving. I found myself thinking of this holiday as a child. My family all together. Lots of cousins, good laughs, tons of food and a buzzing of business that I became aware of I missed. Like many families, mine now is all spread out. In my adulthood I could not recall a Thanksgiving like the ones when I was younger. I spent some time thinking about how I wanted Thanksgiving to look like. I knew I wanted to wake up, watch the parade and have that internal warm feeling we could possibly be all together. Would it look the same as when I was little? No. Our family has had changes in it as yours may have in the last 30 years. Did I have a true vision of what I wanted or how it would look? No. I just knew I wanted to say out loud I wanted us together and to see if it could happen. To my computer I went drafting an email to my family.
Thirty-six of us collected in a shared space. Yes, it had parts that were different. What it did have was a gathering of giggles, stories, unexpected surprises, and connection. The gift my family indulged me with was priceless. Unless I acknowledged what I desired no one would have been able to help create my vision. Your vision may be inviting friends and family from afar to come, it may be to travel, it may be to spend the morning volunteering. Unless you create space to acknowledge your ideas, you miss a platform for it to grow into reality.
Whether Thanksgiving ends for you with watching a football game, doing black Friday shopping or hopefully relaxing with friends and family please take time again afterwards to reflect on the holiday and how it felt for you. Perhaps journal what you appreciated, what you learned and if you had had a magic want how, if at all it, may have gone differently.
“B” is for Boundaries
This concept is a favorite one of mine to explore and process. The most powerful thing about saying no to others is you say yes to YOU.
This concept I find can be incredibly uncomfortable for some. Too many of us grow up either not learning or having healthy boundaries modeled for us. You can look forward to an upcoming post all about boundaries as we start off 2020. For now, let’s get through this holiday! Here are some examples of boundaries some may stumble upon with the holiday.
Thanksgiving can mean many things to us. While some of those may differ, one thing that often is a common theme is a gathering around a special meal. Food can bring high anxiety for some. For example, if you are currently under the advisement of a medical professional to eat a certain way or you are choosing a certain lifestyle for yourself that requires to eat specific foods or at a specific time your host or hostess will not know that unless you communicate it. You may be very aware and committed to what you want that to look like. The idea of attending a meal where you may not have what you need can stir up some true discomfort. Rather than sit in that uncomfortable space from now and Thanksgiving, I encourage you to reach out to your host and share with them that you look forward to a lovely gathering and you appreciate all the hard work they have done in the meal preparation. However, you will be bringing some of your own food to stay committed to your goals and you appreciate their support.
It does not have to be a long, thesis like explanation. Often, we make life harder for ourselves worrying about how to say something, how the person received it, etc. Short can be best. You got yourself up early Thanksgiving morning to go kill it at Orangetheory to walk out with those 12 splat points (go you, btw!). When dessert time comes, and Uncle Jessie looks shocked you didn’t grab the cool whip for the pumpkin pie, and he asks just simply offer I don’t want any but thank-you for asking.
As silly as this may sound, write out what boundaries you may want to others. If this is a new practice, say it in front of the mirror. The more times you say it the less uncomfortable you may feel.
Here is another area that can become stressful but taking some time to explore what you need can help eliminate the stress. If you are a family with young children, you may have experienced the concept of ending a playdate on a good note. You know what I mean, the play date goes great but then all of a sudden hungriness, overtiredness, and unwillingness to share favorite toys sets it. It is like this force gets you to look eye to eye with the other moms and dads and you all just know this needs to end now. I remember those days. It was typically the 2.5-hour mark. The same may be true with the holiday.
Often children become overly stimulated in a small apace with high stimulation. They may be seeing family they have not seen in a long time. Give yourself permission to determine the needs of you and your family. If you know leaving by 7:00pm works best for your family reach out to your family and let them know this. Or perhaps you and your girlfriends have a traditional Black Friday marathon that starts with a gathering at 9:30pm to compare lists. It’s a night you look forward to all year. Get in front of that special event you’ve been so excited about by telling your family that you are looking forward to being together and wanted to remind them your annual girls shop till you drop Black Friday fun is here and you will enjoy being with everyone until the shopping marathon starts.
Express these things ahead of time versus allowing that the possible interaction where you are needing to leave and your family strongly insists in you staying occurs.
“C” is for Communicating
Yes, we need to talk about it. Not just to ourselves but to others. I get it, communicating can be hard. I’ll go one bigger……it can be downright scary for many. You communicating is an invitation for others to learn what you want/need. We hope they RSVP with understanding and acceptance to what you so bravely shared.
Communication is another huge area discussed in my office. We all grew up witnessing communication in the home we were raised in. Some had the experience of seeing communication being open and safe while others felt the voice of members muzzled perhaps. Let’s have you walk away from this with some simple (and hopefully helpful) communication tools to practice this holiday.
Now that you’ve spent time acknowledging your hopes for the holiday and identified the boundaries; you need to share them with others. If you are wanting to share something with a host consider reaching out to them and asking when in the next 24-hours they can connect for a few minutes so you can share what you are planning (food, time to leave, etc.) In doing this you are conveying what you are needing them to know about you. Although it feels quite elementary, when communicating use “I” statements. For example, “I am feeling overwhelmed with the amount of food preparation that is needed. I would greatly appreciate help cutting the vegetables” versus “You not helping me brings up feelings of overwhelm for me.” Often starting sentences with “you” can create defensiveness in the receiver of the message. Another powerful thing to remember is allow yourself a moment to pause, take a breather should you get overwhelmed when talking to others. Simply allow yourself to say, “I was not expecting you to ask me that, I need a few moments to think about it. I can phone you back in twenty minutes.”
As the countdown is on to the holiday, give yourself moments to learn what you need and invite others to assist you so you can enjoy your holiday. Happy Thanksgiving!! If during the holidays you find yourself needing support, contact the office at 239-848-2022 or click “book it” to schedule a session.