Really? Is it Time to Do This Again?
With the holidays soon upon us, we may fall into the pattern of having expectations for the season. The media starts early filling our heads with t harmony, happiness and closeness that surely fills the soul. I don’t want to be a downer but rather a realist. First, we make assumptions that most other people have the “perfect family”, the family we strive for. The media is rampant with showing us visions of family togetherness with the perfect gift creating the perfect moment. But just as your family has its moments, so do all other families.
Before you start this process of looking at your expectations, put aside the assumption that everyone else has the “perfect family”. I have yet to see the perfect family and consider normal families to be families who have difficulties just as you and I.
Next, look at your expectations. Setting up expectations that we will create that perfect family moment during the holidays will lead to disappointment. As the expectations lead to disappointments, we miss the moments we could have had if we had just been content and open to what the moment might bring. And these little moments might actually have been a “Norman Rockwell moment” had we not been pushing for things up for success – leave out expectations.
The holidays are a good time to practice this discipline of no expectations. Perhaps you can ward off getting caught up in the frenzy of running too much, doing too much, spending too much, eating too much only to be depleted when the holidays do roll around. Consider what you want when you get caught up in doing too much.
We do too much for lots of reasons — trying to be loved, making up for feelings of failure, feeling guilty for inadequacies or wanting to connect in a deeper way. None of these reasons can be healed through the “doing or overdoing it” mode. And when we “overdo” something, we “expect” appreciation and gratitude. Most likely even if we get this, we will not feel fulfilled, as true fulfillment only comes from the inside out, not the outside in. So this, too, leads to disappointment. Be accepting of the circumstances with no expectations that suddenly things will be great and harmony will really be in the air just because it is the holiday.
Look at your expectations for the next two months and prioritize so you can better manage the holidays and come out feeling that it was a good couple of months. Consider writing down the expectations you have of yourself, of others and the expectations that others have of you. First, pay attention to your own expectations of the holidays – the expectations you have for yourself. Create a list of what you want to do for the holidays. Consider what you hope to do for gifts, entertainment and gatherings, cooking and baking, holiday extras such as holiday cards and letters, pictures, decorating, and whatever else you have imagined. Bring it from the vision in your head to a list on paper. Consider if it is a “should” or a “want”, if it is doable or if it will cause you stress. Weigh in on the expenditures as the financial stress will be in the aftermath if you don’t look at your situation realistically. Take your expectations and pare them down to what is realistic for your budget, your time, your energy, and your emotional well-being. If you weigh all of these areas, you may be better able to wholeheartedly enjoy your holidays. Then, look at the expectations that others have of you. Formulate a list of things you “should do”. Weigh each item carefully and realistically. Remember that it really is okay for you to consider what you emotionally need or can handle.
Starting as early as this summer, I realized a growing number of clients were already feeling the stress of the holidays. The narratives usually involved the dilemma of how to manage the holiday gatherings with his/her family of origin. Be realistic. Hanging out with toxic people or in toxic environments is difficult in your best moments. But often the preparations to get to the gathering have us exhausted before we arrive, making our tolerance even lower and making us more susceptible to disappointments.
Remember, if it hasn’t been good in the past, it probably won’t be great that day. The same people who started the drama or conflict in the past will be there to start it then. Be realistic, set no expectations, and monitor your own needs in getting through the holidays. It is up to you to take care of yourself. If you go to the gathering, go with the idea that you will not have any big hope that it will be better. Make sure you are well-rested and at your best so you can manage the situation in a good way. Be accepting of the circumstances with no expectations that suddenly things will be great and harmony will really be in the air just because it is the holiday. In this way, you go, but you don’t set yourself up to be disappointed.
We put many expectations on ourselves during this time of the year with all the things we “should” be doing (the expectations of others). We also put a lot on ourselves regarding the expectations we have on ourselves (hoping to create the perfect moments).
Be realistic in what you want to commit to regarding financial commitments, emotional commitments and the physical commitment that goes along with what we choose to do. Give up the assumptions that everyone else has a great family. Do away with expectations of what the holiday might bring. Consider allowing things to roll as they come and be in the moment. It is one of the ways to handle this time with less stress and hopefully, enjoy moments when they come.Tags: Be realistic for the holidays, managing those family gatherings at the holidays
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
- Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW, is the founder and director of Wholeness Healing Center, a mental health practice in Grand Island, Nebraska with remote sites in Broken Bow and Kearney. Her expertise encompasses a broad range of areas, including depression, anxiety, attachment and bonding, coaching, couples work, mindfulness, trauma, and grief. She views therapy as an opportunity to learn more about yourself as you step more into being your authentic self. From her perspective this is part of the spiritual journey; on this journey, she serves as a mirror for her clients as they get to know themselves—and, ultimately, to love themselves.
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