Holidays: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Wondering why an article about the holidays in October? The slippery slope of holiday spending, baking, over-eating, weight gain, expenses, decorating, parties, family gatherings (Oh my!), travel chaos, begins with Halloween. By mid-October, many have already eaten the first batch of Halloween candy, intended for trick or treaters. It doesn’t really end until the last of the Valentine candy is gone and the bills are paid. For many, holidays are the ultimate stress test driven by the pressure to make things perfect. How can we have “holiday cheer” this time, amid the recurrent family drama? The dizziness you feel may be from excitement; more likely, the beginning of a panic attack.

Maybe you’ve always just gone with the chaos and somehow dealt with the crash and burn at the end. The following tips and tools may give you a more controlled, dare I say, enjoyable ride.

Holiday Spending

  • These are uncertain financial times for many of us. Take an honest look at your finances. Set a limit and spend within your means. Remember, when you put everything on credit cards, huge bills will arrive in January and February.
  • Talk with family members (parents, grandparents, siblings, etc.) about gift giving. Set appropriate spending limits. Avoid competitive gift giving. For those who seem to have everything, consider donating to their favorite charity. Remember the meaning of these holidays in your family traditions and culture.

Family Gatherings

  • Family gatherings often bring mixed emotions. If you’re hesitant about family gatherings, you probably have good reasons. It’s understandable to feel exasperated with some individuals’ criticisms, judgments, opinions, opposing political views and zinger comments pushing your buttons. Stop thinking this year will be different. Have a game plan.
  • Recognize what sets you off. Notice thoughts and old beliefs that fuel your reactions and choose how to respond.
  • Pivot the conversation rather than go toe-to-toe. Perhaps respond with, “Thanks, I’ll give that some consideration.” Not enough?
  • Redirect your focus and slow deep breathe, or count to 10, change the subject to something pleasant. Still not enough?
  • Step away: Go to another group, outside for a breath of fresh air, or the bathroom. You are in control of your response. Set healthy boundaries. Limit time you spend with difficult people and situations.
  • Remind yourself, it’s unnecessary to take things personally or engage in negative banter.

Take Care of Yourself

  • Navigating the holidays well requires self-care. Definitely enjoy those holiday goodies but eat healthy most of the time. Get enough sleep. Make time and space for exercise, rest, and relaxation.
  • Acknowledge the challenges of holidays. Many of us are heavy-hearted, experiencing grief and loss because things have changed in our lives. There is no time limit on grieving and holidays can be especially painful.
  • Get your flu and COVID vaccinations. Take precautions (wear a mask) in large gatherings and traveling.

May the up-coming holidays land gently upon you.