I’ve been thinking about writing this for a few days. The holidays are not always as happy or merry as we would like them to be. I’m sure we have all seen the different memes about having a clapback or post about setting boundaries. Nevertheless, it’s been in my heart to discuss taking the obligation out of the holidays.
To the Holiday Host. Perhaps you felt the burden or obligation to host for the benefit of some semblance of family togetherness or to carry on tradition. Know that you can choose to delegate some responsibilities. There is the option to have different people bring different dishes or you can obtain catering from a local restaurant. This is to reduce the stress of hosting, gathering, and cooking. Additionally, I encourage you to emotionally adjust your expectations of everything going perfect and everyone being happy. Don’t pressure yourself with results to indicate the success of your gathering. Make your only goal to create an emotionally safe and warm environment.
Dear Member of an Unhealthy Family. Perhaps you’re experiencing anxiety about your family gathering. First, be okay with setting boundaries, redirecting certain conversations, and excusing yourself to take a break when necessary. I often encourage practicing a 30-second pitch around the uncomfortable/inappropriate topic of discussion (e.g. I see that you are concerned about [topic], please respect I choose not to discuss that matter with you or at this time.) Additionally, don’t feel obligated to spend the entire day with your family. Boundaries can be related to the amount of time you spend with your family. You can choose to limit your time to “just stopping by” to assess the health of the environment or 1-2 hours! Consider some alternatives which may include invites from friends, other supportive members of your family, choosing to go to the movies, arcade, or grabbing a meal and having quiet time at home.
Being Mindful of the Grieving. Many have experienced significant losses of a loved once since the last celebration of a holiday. Personally, I’ve experienced three losses this year, and know it can be difficult to navigate! Please know the first of many things will be difficult for most. Shoot, maybe even the seconds, thirds, and fourths. Know that it is very normal to long for the presence or your loved one. This may be the first of many things you may have to experience and adjust to without them. Especially, if there are certain routines and traditions you’ve shared with them! Please understand that is okay if you want to spend some quiet time alone reflecting. This not only applies to the death of a love one, but also the loss of a significant relationship and/or friendship.
Navigating a Personal Journey. Perhaps you have a relatively healthy family, but you’re experiencing your very own personal journey at this point in your life. Maybe you’re just emotionally exhausted, and would prefer just resting and reflecting. Do just that! You can choose to spend some limited time with your family or friends. And, you can choose to be alone in solitude. If you choose, you can let your family know you love and appreciate them, but you’re choosing to rest! Don’t feel obligated to explain, just ask that they support your decision and respect your journey! Remember you have autonomy and choice!
Most importantly, remember that many holidays are just ONE day. Simply 24 hours within a 168 hour week. This is not to minimize the stress, emotional discomfort, grief, or loneliness that these type of days may create or heighten. But, to put into perspective that it is still your day with or without a certain label. It is your day to manage how you see fit! You can choose however you want, and not conform to any pressures. Have a reflective day!
Crystal S. Zanders is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who works in private practice in Suburban Chicago. Crystal obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Communication from the University of Illinois at Chicago and Master of Arts in Counseling from Concordia University-Chicago in River Forest, IL. Crystal has over 8 years of experience providing counseling, advising, and coaching to individuals seeking to restore their lives. Crystal is actively involve in ministry. Crystal serves on the leadership team alongside her husband at Prayer City Church in Wheaton, IL. Additionally, Crystal is the co-founder of The Oasis Ministry, a women's ministry designed to encourage women in their growth in faith, purpose, and wholeness! Crystal’s favorite pastimes include: reading, writing, crocheting/knitting skills, and going to the movies. Her heart’s desire is to see individuals gain insight into their God-given identity and live a life of wholeness and purpose! Crystal loves to bring clarity and understanding through the truth of God’s Word and enjoys utilizing writing as a teaching modality.