Christmas Sanity part 2: When Hell is other people

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So here’s part two of guide to staying sane for the holidays (part one here)

The social part of Christmas is fun.

Ideally.

It’s when we get to connect with old friends, family, maybe make new friends. It can be an incredibly nurturing time and full of genuine care and love. There’s nearly always an accompanying pressure though isn’t there? Like, how can I get to meet everyone? How do I choose who to meet? where to meet them? How do I tolerate the people I find difficult? How do I cope when I have to spend time with a person (or people) I usually avoid?

Familiar?

Here are some of the quandaries I hear clients talk about it this time of year – indeed I’ve been there myself!

How will I fit everyone in? Well, you may not fit everyone in. That’s the reality. No one expects more of you than you do of yourself. Indeed everyone else’s expectations are so far away from yours that in distance terms they are visible only as a distant teeny weeny dot. Release yourself from these expectations – you are allowed to enjoy the holidays – other peoples’ enjoyment is not your responsibility.

My suggestion is to prioritize. Choose to spend time with people whose company is enjoyable and nurturing, people you actually like.

As you read this there are faces popping into your head maybe.

Visit those people, people!

I don’t want to visit X. I’m uncomfortable in their house.

My suggestion here is either don’t go (that’s allowed too) even if this person is related to you.  Or limit yourself to one hour and then arrange a reward for yourself afterwards (simple is fine – a walk, watching a movie you’ve been meaning to…). The reward will give you something to look forward to and something nice to think about if you need to “go to a happier place” while you’re there. Remember to breathe and remind yourself that you don’t have to engage or try to control what’s going on (or wrong) around you. You can leave sooooooonnn…

 

That person’s behaviour is embarrassing/ dangerous / abusive. I don’t want them in my house.

Solution: Don’t invite them to your house.

Yes, this is a lot easier said than done, particularly if you haven’t done it before. But I invite you to give this serious consideration. The holidays are filled with what feel like obligations, rules. But if you think about it – they are just traditions, habits even. You do not have to play along. You can break a family tradition and the sun will still come up tomorrow.

This is quite a serious one for a lot of people. Many families have people who are addicts, or narcissists, or who are abusive. At this time of year we tend to expose ourselves unnecessarily to these people. Mostly we do this out of a sense of ‘duty’, a sense of ‘family’. And it can be very, very hard, with consequences, usually for us. Arguments and abuse in families often escalate at this time of year because we tend to spend time with people that we would (wisely) avoid at other times. Add to that the socially accepted increase in liquid self-medication (otherwise known as “Christmas Cheer”) and we have a recipe for alcohol fueled disaster.

We know for example that spousal abuse increases in severity around Christmas. This is a time to mind yourself and any children that might be at risk. Please contact the Gardaí, Women’s Aid or Amen (for men) if you are in danger.There is never an OK time to be abused. If someone is nasty, again, even if it’s a relative, you do not have to invite them into your home, your safe place.

Regardless of the spoken and implied disapproval.

Really, it’s OK. (And what’s more, you may well be helping someone else in your circle by showing them how to say No).

Always plan an escape hatch:

This might be a plan that you’ve made with your partner or friend that when you give a signal, it’s time to leave. Or it may be an agreement that if a certain person is there, you are not to be left alone with them. Plans are good, and such a plan might help you feel more settled rather than fearful. Like the worry technique, finding a solution before something goes wrong, has a soothing effect on all of us.

Worry Technique - it works!

Worry Technique – it works!

So! Just because it’s the holidays and people are celebrating doesn’t mean you have to stay all day or night. So even if it’s 11.58 pm on New Year’s Eve, get out of there if something’s happening that doesn’t sit well with you.

If the mood is right, and the fun is good then celebrate well and safely! 🙂

The third and last post in this Christmas series on simple holiday self-care tips will be along here and on TwoWiseChicks in a few days. Meanwhile, I hope this was helpful.

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