Thanksgiving will be here in approximately two weeks. I know, right? Where has the time gone? I’m still coming down from all the candy corn I ate last month. Thanksgiving is a pretty popular holiday in the U.S. – horribly inaccurate historical and cultural stereotypes notwithstanding. Who doesn’t like to stuff themselves until they burst, scream unintelligibly at the TV, get into a huge family argument, and eat some more… all leading to one inevitable conclusion: nap time. Sometimes the holidays make us regress a little. I’m sure I’m not alone when I pine for the days when nap time was a regularly scheduled event. Sarcasm aside, Thanksgiving can be a wonderful time to bond with family – or not. It’s common to find the holidays difficult to manage.
Holidays often feel overwhelming to people because they feel out of control. We feel at the mercy of our relatives or steamrolled by the sheer force of family tradition. The thing to remember is that you do have some control. Everything in life if a choice – there may be consequences to what you choose, but you do have a choice.
You have to go over to your grandma’s house even though she tells you you’re getting fatter every year and it makes you feel like crap. You have to have three helpings of the disgusting tofu and kimchee stuffing or your aunt Mildred will cry. You have to watch football with your father even though he drinks too much and you don’t like football anyway. You don’t exactly want to do
Really? Do you really have to?
Ask yourself, “Why am I doing things that make me miserable?” Think about the reasons. Make a list of reasons you should engage in these holiday traditions and then a list of reasons why you shouldn’t. Just making a simple pro and con list will remind you that you do have a choice.
Challenge your assumptions. What if you didn’t go to your grandma’s for dinner? What if you didn’t have an extra serving of stuffing?
Your gut feeling might be: Drama! Disaster! Guilt forever! But get past that initial reaction. Think about what would actually happen. Maybe your grandma would be annoyed. Is that really such a big deal? Could you make it up to her later with a brunch in February? Instead of watching football with your dad, could you suggest some other activity the two of you could do together?
Don’t unthinkingly do things the same way just because that’s how you always do them. If the old holiday traditions aren’t working, if they’re not making you happy and causing holiday stress, it’s time to do something different.
Once you’ve taken a clear look at the holidays — about what works and what doesn’t — it’s time to make some changes. Focus on the holiday stresses that you can control and make sure to add in things that you will enjoy.
As always, remember that we over in the counseling center are happy to help you work through some of your more complex family issues. And we won’t make you eat any extra stuffing.
Joselyne Perry is the Campus Wellness Coordinator at Pacific’s counseling center on Cedar Street.