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Kehler Counseling Blog

Take the Crazy out of the Holidays!

That time of year is here again . . . 

I will start with Thanksgiving . . .

RULE #1 - It is NOT a day for THERAPY - Family Feuds or Relocating Lost relatives.  
Leave that for another less stressful day - when you can make it special for it's reason not jumbled into the making a too big meal, too many people, too much talking, food, alcohol, anxiety, depression, insecurity, and anger.   Either put it away - keep quiet or make a date to talk about those issues at another time.  
Thanksgiving Day should not be spoiled by your determination to tell the truth, expose a secret, instigate anger, threaten, abuse, condemn, judge, criticize, brag or expect apologies.   

Most people want to be slightly delusional for this day - thinking that for ONE day they can eat all they want, drink all they want, that everyone will be thrilled to see them, pay them proper attention, help in the kitchen, notice and clean the mess, correct their own children, compliment often and easily, laugh openly and loudly, nap on command, cheer for the best team, win the bet, enjoy the most fattening, calorie laden desserts, enjoy 2nds and 3rds, then a round later in the night, beat their smarter relative at a word game, not hear a ting of a text, get a life changing phone call or burn anything - much less light the garage on fire with a Fried Turkey.    Just reading that paragraph should give you as sense of what a good holiday can feel like - its a LOT of things - tiny events that all add up to make it wonderful.   Stay focused on those things -everything else - all those 'important issues' will be waiting for you on another - less hectic day -when you can pay proper attention to them. 
#2 - Ask your family members in advance what they remember - stands out about previous Thanksgiving events.  Then focus on those type of activities, foods, people, places and events. 
We spend too much time trying to either please EVERYONE and feeling hassled, stressed and resentful or we focus on what WE think is important when in fact no one is caring, recalling or considering it as important as we are.   You may be spending a LOT more money and time on stuff, events, material things that no one else even noticed! 
  • This year ASK - what do they recall - what stands out?  Is it the food , what food?, is the place? the table? the decorations? the activities? the game? the favorite relative? the least favorite relative?  
  • Are they recalling the 'drunken uncle' or the funny aunt?
  • Are they remembering the specific foods and who makes them?
  • Are they remembering the activities more than the food?  Do they look more forward to the 'big game' than the meal?   Do you have more fun playing board or video games with the cousins than the yelling about a team winning?
  • Do you enjoy getting to talk to the girls in the kitchen even if its around work?
  • Do you enjoy the satisfaction of the compliments of the event, the food, the fun?
  • At the end of the night are you glad it's over or content that it went so well?  If it didn't go well - how can you prevent that this year?
  • What did you spend a lot of time and/or money on that no one noticed?
  • What is something you forgot to do and someone did notice?  
  • Who were the 'life' of the party and who were 'the poopers' - can you limit their visit or change it? 
  • If it was a Perfect Day - what would you do different?  

#3 Spend more time editing than adding. 
More gets us in more trouble - if you spent any time at all reviewing #2 - you will have a clear, concise list of what to keep and what to discard.  You will whittle out the crazy.
You will eliminate the extras that no one noticed, weren't worth the expense or were just a waste to your family.   You will be staying more authentic to what you and your family really value - not what the media, neighbors or someone judgmental thinks you should.   There will be less stress because you will feel more focused and freed from 'noise' that you weren't hearing anyway.   

#4 - For some its just another day . . . 
Don't take it personally - if someone refuses an invitation, prefers to be at their own home, doesn't want to participate in the 'craziness' of Black Friday shopping, baking hundreds of cookies, touring expensively decorated homes, waiting in line for Santa at a busy Mall - it's NOT about YOU.    Respect their difference and if anything ask what they would enjoy - and share that with them.   Find a different person who really does enjoy being in the crowds, excitement, beauty, surprise of busy places.   There are plenty who do.   

#5 Don't Assume - ASK more questions. 
Don't assume that everyone loves Thanksgiving the way you do - ask them the questions above to get a clear idea of what they want and enjoy - don't assume that everyone LOVES Turkey - when in fact they're vegan!   This isn't about people pleasing - it is about allowing your loved ones a chance to be heard from their perspective  and that viewpoint that should be respected rather than enforced, judged or changed because it makes you feel uncomfortable.  
  • Instead of making an instant negative judgment about a young person's new tattoo, piercing, 'gauge' or funky clothing - start by asking them WHY they chose the design - place- style that they did.  Get curious and interested in what their story or meaning is to THEM.   Tattoos have become a real way to present an idea, a memory, an attitude or a love to the world - ask them about it. If they were brave enough to get one - they should brave enough to tell you why and what it meant to them.  
  • Conversations work better when both sides are asking questions rather than reporting, telling, or lecturing.  Try to look for similarities rather than differences.   
  • Men prefer to be doing something  rather than just talking - assign small tasks that 'the men' can do together so they can enjoy each other's stories too.  Mix the younger generation with the older.   Try to get the younger ones to teach the older ones something!  
There's so much that can happen during these precious family gatherings.  Take a moment to thank each other for being in your lives.  Be thankful that you are meeting for food and football not a funeral.   Be thankful for who is there and healthy.  Share stories about those who were in the empty seats and how much they are missed.  Reach out to the quiet or shy relative and find a common interest.   
Just enjoy the day for its simplicity - good family - friends- food- football and even a pet or too acting up and making everyone laugh and forget their real life for a few minutes.

Karen K

4 Comments to Take the Crazy out of the Holidays!:

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Peg Cleveland on Friday, November 23, 2012 3:26 PM
I bought creame de menthe and had to go all over to find it and then no one wanted it with ice cream after I went to all the trouble. They were too full from the dinner even a few hours later. I bought nuts to crack and forgot to even put them out. Both items will be used at a later date though. I enjoyed your advice though.I have bookmarked your site.
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anzac day gallipoli Tours on Monday, December 09, 2013 7:18 AM
I am happy to find this content on Take the Crazy out of the Holidays very helpful and informative for me, as it contains lot of accurate detailing about the topic, which I was searching for. Thanks a lot and good luck.
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JH Foai on Thursday, December 31, 2015 12:36 PM
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Footballer Mofin on Thursday, December 31, 2015 12:47 PM
thankful to you that tou are meeting for food and football not a funeral. Be thankful for who is there and healthy. football is a game like that. happy gamming.
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