Emotional Holiday Survival Kit


Simplify: I sometimes start to feel anxious around the holidays with everyone hustling and bustling around me.  It’s a contagious anxiety that I realize does not have to be my reality.  While my family celebrates Chanukah, my husband’s side celebrates Christmas and keeps it pretty mellow. When we all started having children, we decided to draw straws and pick just one person in the family to buy a gift for.  It reduced the pressure on all of us and now instead of worrying about finding 6-10 gifts, we get one person to focus on, giving us more time to spend relaxing during a hectic season.

Going Home: Several of my clients and friends have mentioned their anxiety around going home.  “Home for the Holidays” can be an emotionally trying effort for some people.  They worry they are not going home the way they feel that they “should.” Examples: When I go home, I should be earning more money, should be married, should have kids, my kids should all be together, I should live closer to my family, ect…  How can we remove the “shoulds” and go home from a stronger emotional place?

A Going Home Experiment:  Try viewing yourself as an anthropologist observing the native culture.  You can respect and admire the “home culture” while at the same time knowing that it might not be your culture.  You might be straddling more than one culture of equal value.  Remember that your family’s home is just one version of home.  Most of all remember that you are whole just as you are.

Are you the Host?  If you are hosting people, and perhaps your family is coming home to you, how can you create a welcoming environment? What kinds of questions can you ask them (or not ask them) that will make them feel at ease?  For example “Did you get that promotion yet?” or “When are you going to finally settle down?” might not be the best questions at this time?  Instead, try open questions like “What are your friends like?” or “How have you been spending your free time?”  People who only return home periodically might be more nervous than you think and worry about “measuring up.”

Make a list and Check it Twice:  One of my friends recently said to me “I wish the holidays would just hurry up and be done.”  Why do so many feel this way? I am sure we all have at one point.  Sometimes we have a love hate relationship with them.  Perhaps making a list about the positives and negative of the season will help us understand what we want to keep repeating and what we want to do away with.

The Families We Make:  Feeling guilty about not spending the holidays with family?  You are not alone in your choice and for many it’s the best decision.  Many people choose not to be around family for the holidays.  Whether it’s because it is not cost effective, or perhaps not emotionally a good choice, we can find joy and tradition with the people who we choose to come together with.  I have a local group of friends who every year celebrate holidays together.  Each year someone else hosts the holiday, it’s potluck, and they extend invitations to a wide group of folks.  It’s a beautiful example of a “chosen family.”

I wish you all a very warm season and look forward to hearing from you.