For many people, the holidays bring out family’s typical reactions. It feels as though no matter how happy or successful you are in your life, somehow your family has a different agenda—as in the cartoon below.
Welcome to the underside of being with your parents and other family members during the holiday season—which now seems to start earlier and earlier. This long part of the year can bring out the best—and worst in you. You get cranky, stressed and defensive, and you can even feel a bit lonelier.
After all, Thanksgiving is not far away, and soon, the Christmas and other holiday decorations and those special deals will be everywhere. And then there is New Year’s Eve…and then Valentine’s Day.
No wonder the time span before Thanksgiving to Valentine’s Day often sparks mental and physical health issues. For many people, it gets dark earlier, the skies are grey more often, and the cold weather, with its’ ice and snow puts a shadow on your mood.
You are tempted to eat too much, to exercise too little, to feel disappointed with your interactions with your parents and family, and to either avoid leaving your heart open to love or to rush into love to fix your mood.
Oh no, again.
So, I am offering tested and trusted advice to help you stay healthy for the holidays and to manage the most common love and life problems that the holiday season tends to bring into focus. These tips come from my five year research with thousands of women and from my lifelong private practice with more than 10,000 people.
1. Taking Charge of Your Time with Your Parents, Caregivers, Siblings and Extended Family
Not a Norman Rockwell kind of family where everyone sits with smiles around the dining table? Well, you are not alone. Depression and suicide attempts increase during the holidays.
Being alone feels rotten and lonely. But being with family that does not cheer for you can also not feel well, either. Here are some tips to help you take charge of you.
- Don’t use the holiday time to have “heart-to-hearts” with certain family members.
Why? It’s not a good idea to catch people off-guard. They are most likely to respond to your issues defensively. You end up stating your grievances—which makes others defend themselves—and it forces others to make you wrong in order to make themselves right.
- Instead, lay the groundwork now for creating a new impression of you. Make a list of your grievances, hot topics and the typical questions that your family asks. For example, do your parents ask you: “You still going with that person?” “Are you sure about this person?” “Are you dating anyone?” “Earning any money yet in your new venture?”
For each hot topic question, write down an explanation that makes you look good, mature and wise. This list will help you boost your sense of self-worth and prepare you better for these next bold steps.
- Send cards or emails to those nosy but probably caring family members who really get to you. Tell them you are looking forward to seeing them. Add a comment, if possible, about something you like about them. Now tell them that you would like to seek their advice about something regarding (fill in the blank.) Tell them that you are doing well.
Huh? Really? Yes! This approach does many things. It calms the person down. It makes them see you in a positive light. It makes them feel valued. This approach works best if you maintain on-going contact with this person by sending them birthday or anniversary cards throughout the year.
- At the holiday, stand up and announce that you are on a great path, but that you need their help. Thank everyone for their concern. Okay, it probably hasn’t felt like concern, but you are now in charge of relabeling it as something positive. This approach makes you look very mature.
- Now ask everyone for their advice on what you should do about whatever is your hot topic. Be sure that the most critical people are asked. You might be surprised how little advice they really have. This approach makes you look more in command and warmer—and it tends to silence a bit those critical family members.
2. Taking Charge of Your Physical Health
Do not see the holiday time as an eating-reward time—or a “time-out” from your normal eating routine. You can’t eat your way to happiness. Be aware of your usual eating habits. You will most definitely regret gorging on food. Those pounds get harder and harder to take off.
- Instead of eating your favorite but not-so-good-for-you foods, sample them instead. Don’t deprive yourself of that dessert. But eat about two and a half to three level tablespoons slowly.
Your taste buds get saturated quickly, so eating more is emotional eating.
- Get a buddy at the holiday table to help you stay in charge. You can also “deputize” all your family members to remind you not to take that second helping.
- Similarly, get an Exercise Buddy or two who will go the gym with you or go out for a run. Do not skip your routine.
3. Taking Charge of Your Love Life
Being alone or feeling unhappy in love at the holidays feels awful. Don’t rush to fill that void or stopper your unhappiness by rushing into sex or a new relationship that is not good for you. The holiday season is filled with romantic comedies and scenes of happy families. You wonder: “Why can’t I feel that way?”
It is tempting to fall in love with whoever is handy or who comes along. Don’t.
- Instead, consider volunteering. Get a group of friends and colleagues together to volunteer at a soup kitchen or toys for tots or any other local charities. Get out there, meet new people and feel good about you.
- Also, have a singles party. The rule is that everyone has to bring at least one person of the opposite sex. You could meet at your local favorite restaurant or go to someone’s home.
- Have a “Worst Present” gift exchange single party. Do the same thing mentioned above and ask each person to bring also their worst gift ever.
Getting out there makes it less likely that you will find yourself rushing into your next ex-relationship.
Written by LeslieBeth Wish, Ed. D.
LeslieBeth Wish, Ed. D, is an award-winning, nationally honored author and licensed clinical psychotherapist, specializing in helping men and women become smart, brave and intuitive in life, love and work. She is also a Certified Aquatic Fitness Professional. The National Association of Social Workers has named her as one of the fifty who have contributed to the profession, and she is the subject of biographical entry in many of the Marquis Who’s Who Publications for her pioneering work. Her website is www.lovevictory.com Her recent book is “Smart Relationships: How Successful Women Can Find True Love,” published by New Horizon Press. Her findings are based on 5 years of research with thousands of women. The companion cartoon book, “The Love Adventures of Almost Smart Cookie,” follows a year in the love misadventures of attorney Cookie. Each of the 52 cartoon panels is based on a key finding from Dr. Wish’s research. Her current work on training your intuition grew out of this research. If you would like to sign up to be part of free advice on training your intuition, please send her an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org and put the word FREE in the subject line. You can also contact her through her website www.lovevictory.com