Family life is idealized at the holiday season. In commercials, television shows and movies, families are portrayed as a font of togetherness, making warm memories.
However, for many of us, this time of year can bring up anxiety, depression and pure dread when we think of going home.
Magically, the minute we’re with our families of origin we’re cast back into our childhood roles: vying for attention, feeling ignored as the middle child or behaving in a rebellious and insolent manner though we’ve long left the teen years behind. Astoundingly, our siblings transform as well into “the boastful competitor” or “the golden child” upon whom everyone lavishes attention or “the boss of the applesauce” whose motto is “My way or the highway.”
We also fall back into the parent-child role with our parents, even those of us who’re sporting receding hairlines and errant silver (gray) hairs.
We exhaust ourselves by turning into our Martha Stewart avatar and decorating our homes to the nines so as to gain approval from Mom. Some of us become the over-responsible caregiver who helps Dad to bed after he’s been “celebrating” too much. We try to please our mothers-in-law by lavishing praise upon their mostly bland cornbread dressing.
Resistance to change often drives us up the wall: the green bean casserole CANNOT be exchanged for a more tasty dish, the time of the meal must be 14:00 sharp, the game must be turned to a supersonic volume because this is the way that it’s always been done. Equally frustrating are the iconoclasts who change the date of the holiday to fit their schedules, those who freely and unilaterally change the holiday theme to a Luau or Harry Potter, or those who want to troop to The Golden Corral to avoid cooking and cleaning.
Drama can be stirred up by the aunt born without a filter, the ex showing up with his new amore, futile attempts to find one’s way through a hoarder’s paradise or the Fox News addict lecturing The Daily Show‘s #1 fan about President Obama’s birthplace.
How to stay calm, cool and collected (sometimes it’s difficult!) :
- Take a break, even if it’s 15 degrees outside. Remember, you need to cool down.
- Orient yourself to your current age, occupation and home address.
- Call your sponsor, go to a meeting, take those twelve steps to sanity.
- Take care of yourself: eat, sleep and exercise.
- Talk to supportive family and friends.
- Delegate chores and tasks as needed.
- Limit your alcohol intake.
- Be aware of your own predilection to stir up drama (you know who you are!.)
- Practice responding to your family in adult mode. Happy Holidays ! (Let’s hope that the Mayans were wrong about 12/21/12…)