Holiday travel is always hectic and stressful, but perhaps the worst part of the season comes in the form of another kind of trip altogether: the guilt trip. This time of year, it seems impossible to please everyone all the time – and it likely is. When you start feeling guilty, take a step back and evaluate the situation objectively. Here are a few tips for celebrating a guilt-free holiday:
Know that it’s okay to talk about it.
If you come from a less-than functional family, and you’re surrounded by people who are excited to spend the holidays with their family, don’t feel like you need to put on a happy face and feign excitement just to keep things from getting awkward. It’s okay to express that family time isn’t always ideal for you and open up about your fears. That doesn’t make you a bad person; it makes you human.
Lower your expectations.
So no one wants to go into the holiday season thinking their experience will suck, but lowering your expectations can help you get through the experience without suffering terrible disappointment. Set reasonable expectations for how the visit or gathering will go, and be prepared to deal with the issues that may arise.
Keep your friends close.
Good friends can really buoy you up when a family gathering gets you down. Have a few on stand-by that you can call when you need a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on. It’s okay to experience pain when a family event isn’t everything you thought it would be – or hoped it could be – but keeping it in won’t do you any good.
Plan in advance.
There’s nothing worse than being blindsided by a relative you didn’t want to see or a topic you didn’t want to discuss. Plan ahead by determining who you’re willing to see and asking who will be in attendance at various events. Make a choice not to discuss subjects that you’re uncomfortable with, and get comfortable saying, “I’m not going to discuss this with you,” firmly and politely.
Have an escape plan.
Your family holiday could be a wonderful experience and exceed your expectations. That said, if things go south, it doesn’t hurt to have an exit strategy in place. Call a hometown friend to ask if you can crash on their couch if worse comes to worst, or get familiar with the hotels or bus stations in town.
Go in With an Open Mind
If you’re expecting family drama, or even family awkwardness, it can affect the way you act around your family, which in turn can cause some ripples, drama and awkwardness (ever heard of self-fulfilled prophesy)? Try to go in to the holidays with an open mind and, while you should keep your expectations realistic, don’t assume things will go terribly either. You can only control your own behavior, so make sure you’re warm, gracious and open to moving forward.
Take a Time Out
The holidays can be particularly tough because you spend a lot of time with family – all at once. If you need a break, you should know that it’s okay to take it. Whether you’re grabbing a bite to eat with a friend or just getting a massage or manicure by yourself, it’s okay to take a time out from the “togetherness time.” Just be polite about it.
The holidays are an exciting time, but they can also be stressful if your family situation isn’t ideal. Setting your boundaries and knowing it’s okay to take a break will help you get through the family celebrations. From our family to yours: Happy holidays!