By: Angelica Cruz-Serrano, MFT and MHC Intern
For some, the Holidays may symbolize
- a time that brings family and friends together;
- a time when people celebrate in gratitude for the past year; and
- a time when people celebrate what is to come in the New Year.
For others, the holidays raise their barometer as soon as they combine the words “holidays” and “family.”
Relationships can be complicated because of the expectations we have of each other. For example, “we are all the same because we belong to this family.” This kind of expectation can make it difficult to be yourself around your family. This is especially difficult if you have different values and goals than other family members.
Families are considered “systems”, and when something changes within or outside of the system, it upsets the homeostatic balance. Keeping this balance is complicated because change is inevitable. We all change, grow and evolve despite the pressure of maintaining the balance with the rest of the family.
Maintaining the balance can be more challenging during the holidays. During this time of year, expectations are elevated because of the rituals, assumptions, and traditions that families carry. The expectations may sound like this:
- “It’s the holidays, you are supposed to be joyous and happy.”
- “Holidays are times when families come together.”
- “Without the family, there’s no reason to celebrate.”
- “There’s no place like home for the holidays.”
- “Everything has to be perfect.”
Once the expectations are questioned, the balance within the family system is challenged.
Visiting or being with family when your values and expectations have changed can be stressful. I know sometimes it is easier to just “go with it,” but the reality is that you are not always going to feel joyous and happy. Also, sometimes you will want to celebrate with other people outside of your family.
Below are some tips that can help you make positive changes when spending time with family:
- Take time for yourself;
- Create time for more self-care;
- Have more self-compassion;
- Be more accepting of your limitations;
- Minimize over-indulging in food and alcohol as a way to cope with stress;
- Keep yourself and the expectations of others realistic;
- Focus on the positive qualities of your family members;
- Set boundaries when needed;
- You cannot stop people from bringing up controversial subjects or asking rude questions, but you can monitor and modify your reactions to them;
- Practice tolerance. We all do things that can irritate others and not be aware of it; and
- Do not try to change others.
Life can be stressful, lonely, and frustrating at times. The holiday allows us to take a step back and reflect on this year as it comes to an end. The good, the bad, and the uncomfortable moments were all necessary. They needed to be experienced, explored, and enjoyed.
Finally, I invite you to reflect and celebrate how much you have grown and changed, as a result. Take time to enjoy your friends and family, reflect on all you have accomplished, and graciously take those moments into a new and exciting year.
Wishing you the best for a New Year!
QUOTE FOR THE WEEK
“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.”
Margaret J. Wheatley