I’ve had several requests recently to write something about how to deal with the stress of Christmas and the holidays. If I missed anything that stresses you out, let me know and I’ll write about it in an upcoming blog.
So without further ado, here are Anne’s 3 Rules for having a saner Christmas/holiday celebration with your family:
1) Don’t take ANYTHING personally. The end.
Families press each other’s buttons. That’s their job.
So if someone says something that hurts your feelings or upsets you, why not just assume that that’s their stuff? (Because it is.)
Whenever I talk with my clients about not taking things personally, they always say some variation of, “But, Anne, how can I not take it personally when someone criticizes me or tells me that I’m a terrible cook or an incompetent father or a lazy employee or stupid or aggressive or cheap or…?
Here’s my answer to that:
Who says they’re right???
Why take other people’s opinions so seriously?
Why give anyone else the power to decide who you are and whether you’re ok or not?
When Meryl Streep tried out for the female lead in King Kong, the producer, Dino DiLaurentiis, Sr., asked his son, “Que bruta?” which translates to “Why do you bring me this ugly thing?” Little did he know that Meryl understood Italian. She told him that she was sorry that she was not beautiful enough to be in King Kong.
More importantly, she told herself that his opinion was just one persepctive and she knew that there would be other opinions out there and she would find them. And she obviously has. Meryl Streep has been nominated for 19 Academy Awards in total. More than any other actor or actress in history. What if she had allowed Di Laurentiis’ opinion of her to stop her? What if she had taken him seriously and decided that she would never make it as an actress?
So Rule Number 1 is: DON’T SPEND ANY OF YOUR PRECIOUS HOLIDAY TIME (or actually any of your life) SUFFERING OVER SOMEONE ELSE’S PERSPECTIVE OF YOU.
Because that’s all it is. Their perspective colored by their own stuff.
2) Be aware of your hopes and expectations for the time you spend with your family. So you don’t fall into a well of disappointment or frustration.
Remember – you know these people. This is not your first encounter with them, right?
You know their stuff. The things they do that drive you crazy or upset you or frustrate you. (And that’s all about your perspective. See #1 above.)
So how can you get them to change their behavior? You can’t.
Often we don’t realize that we have hopes and expectations that this year will be different. That this year our family will turn into the Brady Bunch and the holidays will be perfect. Maybe just maybe this year everyone will get along and be happy.
My sister-in-law, Kathy, used to spend three or more weeks preparing an incredible, over-the-top delicious Christmas dinner for about 45 people. It was flawless.
The problem (well I saw it as a problem) was that my family eats fast. So weeks worth of Kathy’s painstaking, meticulous preparation was devoured in a flash. (Of course, it’s partly Kathy’s fault because the food was so incredibly finger-licking, lip-smacking wonderful.)
For years I hoped that just once, everyone would eat slowly and really appreciate all the time and effort that had gone into its preparation. But who said that that was the only way to appreciate the feast and all of Kathy’s hard work? I finally woke up and decided to enjoy the evening no matter how long dinner lasted. And guess what. Of course it was a lot more fun when I gave up needing to have it be the way I thought it should be.
We all want the people we love (or everyone on the planet) to accept us for who we are just as we are. I have an idea. You go first. What would it be like to accept your family for who they are instead of expecting – or demanding – that they be different?
3) Someone has to tackle this issue so I guess it has to be me.
The issue of to gift or not to gift. There. I said it.
I can’t tell you how many people I have spoken to over the years who have told me how much they dislike the whole gift buying ritual. That it makes the holiday season too consumer-driven and materialistic. That they have no idea what people want. That they put a lot of thought into gifts for people who don’t return the favor. That they’d rather give their money to a good cause. Etc., etc.
But for some reason, it seems taboo to talk about it.
Why not talk about the whole gift issue with your family at a time when emotions aren’t running high about Christmas?
Like in July.
If there is a “rule” here, it would be this: Talk about the things that bother you at a time when everyone’s not emotionally charged and reactive. Work towards a solution instead of fighting about who’s wrong or right.
I wish you, your loved ones and all humans everywhere a holiday season of health, love, joy and abundance. And peace for this beautiful, crazy, awe-inspiring planet and all of its inhabitants.