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Nov 19, 2021 in 

The Holidays are Coming! So is Family!

Ah, the holidays. What a joyous time of year...

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Chet Spence

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Ah, the holidays. What a joyous time of year to spend with our families, reminiscing about the wonderful times in the past, or looking forward to and sharing new plans and ventures in the new year. It is a time to thank all for their support, love, and care throughout the year from those you count on most. 

Or, perhaps your family is like most other families that create more stress at holiday times than goodwill. Unresolved feelings, family rivalries, and disappointments can rear their ugly heads at the worst times, leaving you wondering if you were adopted. 

“There’s this idea that holiday gatherings with family are supposed to be joyful and stress-free,” says Ken Duckworth, MD, medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “That’s not the case. Family relationships are complicated. But that doesn't mean that the solution is to skip the holidays entirely.” So, with the holidays just around the corner, let’s dig into what you can do to set yourself up for a stress-free holiday time and bring joy back, regardless of who you’re sharing turkey with. 

The first thing to understand is regardless of the actions, behaviors, or beliefs of others, you don't have any control over them or their choices. And pointing out their flaws or objectionable behaviors is as effective as breaking down a brick wall with your head. To avoid this cycle of hell, don't participate. This is a completely different mindset, but change starts within. By letting go of this emotional baggage, you will be able to have more joy and peace within yourself and be empowered to deal with difficult or toxic situations. Check yourself on these issues and know how to recognize and manage them. 

The Need For Approval is one of the greatest human motivators and destroyers. We are social creatures for the most part, and as such, we want to please others and be acknowledged for it.  I catch myself doing that all the time. When I do a project around the house, I have to let everyone know about it. That comes from a lack of confidence and knowledge in doing home projects. So when I get a thumbs up, that gives me the confidence to do the next project. When we are recognized for something good, it’s like a drug, especially from someone we admire. We want to repeat it again, and continue getting that approval. That itself can be dangerous if all we are doing is continuing to strive for approval from someone. There is a difference between getting approval and needing approval; the first is voluntary, the second is forced. When we say, “See what a good job I did,” it’s as if the approval is manufactured for a yes, so it becomes fake. Or worse, we wait for an expectant approval and when it doesn’t come, we get upset. If self-esteem is based upon positive likes, it becomes stressful and potentially dangerous when you please others for their acceptance. 

Take a moment to ask yourself, what’s important about getting their approval for what you have accomplished? Will that improve your situation in any way? How would that change your result? How would that impact your relationship with this person or others around you? Is the energy used to achieve approval worth the effort? 

Typically, the answer is no, not, much, and not at all. If so, then it’s okay to give yourself permission to let it go. If what you are doing in your life serves your purpose, mission, and destiny, then does it matter who approves? You are who you are. Not who others think you should be. 

Accept others for who they are, or where they are at. This is a difficult one to manage, especially when you are right and know what’s best for everyone and how they should live their life. But at the end of the day, we don’t get to make their choices, because then we would have to be accountable for them. I don’t know about you, but I find it challenging enough to hold myself accountable, let alone be responsible for someone else. My wife has a saying we use constantly with our family: “Not my circus, not my monkeys,” which essentially means she doesn’t have any emotional involvement in someone else’s drama. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t love her family any less; it’s just that there is not one benefit from getting emotionally caught up in something you have no control over. Letting go of unnecessary drama and baggage makes room for more joy and peace in your life. 

Decide to leave the past in the past. It is not much you can do to fix what happened. Forgiving someone for their previous behavior is one of the healthiest ways you can let go of the past. Establishing appropriate boundaries around what’s tolerable and what’s not is a great way to manage your joy and peace for the holidays. Decide ahead of time what you will and won’t tolerate. If you have the type of family that is agreeable to leaving toxic conversations off the table, great. If not, give yourself permission to break away to take a walk, go to the store to run errands, or whatever will separate you when the situation arises to give yourself a chance to pause for your own health and wellness. 

Managing the extra pressure of the holidays in a positive way can reduce the stress and anxiety that can creep up in our lives and steal our joy. And that’s too precious of a price to pay.

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