CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Just on the off chance your holidays are not totally Norman Rockwell, take a look at the following checklist.
Right now I'm feeling:
__ All of the above
As a result, I've been:
__ Kicking my system into overdrive
__ Giving up sleep for the month of December
__ Beating myself up for not getting everything done
__ Unleashing my stress on those around me
__ Hitting the eggnog more heavily
If you checked more than one of these categories of feelings and results, you're not alone. It's normal to have all kinds of conflicting feelings this time of year -- 'tis the season. In case you were wondering, none of us can sustain that level of heartfelt awe in the Folgers coffee commercials or seasonal Hallmark movies.
Prepare ahead for family/friend interactions
Write down and rehearse a plan of action to cope with any negative triggers that may come up. Family systems tend to repeat patterns of behavior, often in an unconscious manner. Rather than allowing someone to push your buttons, think of some ways to respond that defuse the situation and/or help you stay true to your own boundaries. And resist the urge to push any other buttons!
Change the patterns
Sometimes we get so ingrained in situations it's hard to see how things could change. And just the anticipation of coming events can be enough to throw us into a tailspin. If you truly want to change patterns about holiday meal preparations and cleanup sessions, start now to plant the seeds. Make alternative suggestions -- rotate the cleanup crews, for example.
Over time, lots of resentment can be built up when the same family members are expected to clear the table and do the dishes while others retire to the family room to relax. If this is striking a nerve, take time to think through an alternative plan and communicate it in advance in the best way for your family members to understand -- a phone call, an email, etc. You could even fashion a suggested schedule that has a lineup of particular families or groups the task by age. As you're preparing the meal and sitting down to eat, you could issue a gentle reminder: "Let us give thanks to the Smith gang for tonight's cleanup." Or, "Thanks to our cleanup crew of teenagers tonight."