The holidays may find many dreading family drama or going solo to a holiday bash. For those with these and other holiday anxieties, the therapists at Echo Park’s Center for the Psychology of Women and Silver Lake’s Matt Casper offer some insight into enjoying this time of the year.
Dealing with drama
Patricia O’Laughlin, MA, MFT, ATR: We’ve all seen the films. The family drama hits the fan. The roasted turkey flies through the air. The Christmas tree is set ablaze during an argument over gravy. But the drama most of us face is a little less blatant, a subtle mix of judgmental looks, unresolved memories, and unspoken wounds, the perfect recipe for confusion and heartache. Accepting that your family is not perfect (who’s is?) is difficult. Murray Bowen (multi-generational family therapy) says the less familial differentiation a person has, the more the family’s behavior affects their state of mind. So, going home is the perfect time to practice setting boundaries. Think about your adult, confident self. Write down a list of characteristics connected to this self. When the drama starts, pull out the list, and remember who you are.
Creative and affordable ways to celebrate
Jessica LeRoy, MA, MFT: There’s a lot of pressure to buy holiday gifts for our family and friends…and our family’s friends… and our friends’ families…it can go on and on. Pull back by getting creative. Last year, my sister and I decided to forgo buying gifts for each other. Instead, we each went out to dinner with our significant other. We documented our meals with pictures, and then shared them. It was great to know that instead of standing in an endless line at the mall, my sister was out having a blast! Pitch your ideas to your friends and family. I’m sure they will be just as excited (and relieved) as you are!
Don’t leave yourself off the the gift list
Matt Casper. MA, MFT: What gifts will you give yourself this holiday season? Yes, it’s important to think about the wants and needs of others, and it feels good to make others happy. But it’s also important to think about your own wants and needs. Gift giving can be a symbolic sharing of yourself, but it’s not necessary to give away all that you have, emotionally or financially. In fact, if you don’t save something for yourself, it will make it harder to give to others. Remember that you have value, no matter what gifts you may or may not give. So, how will you reward yourself? Perhaps with something you can buy in a store, or maybe with an experience or feeling you’d like to be more open towards. Maybe you want to set aside more time to share with someone else, or to set aside more time for you. Whether it’s wrapped and under or tree or held in your heart, remember that you deserve to receive gifts from others, but also from yourself. Be kind to yourself this holiday season. You deserve it.
A party of one
Gabrielle Forman, MSW, LCSW: Going stag to holiday events can be stressful. This stress, like most social anxiety, comes from our beliefs that others see our single status as a negative. To decrease this anxiety, it’s helpful to challenge our assumption that party-goers attribute our being alone to some personal flaw. While some frenemies may be judgemental about us flying solo, there will also be people who envy us for our freedom. Most guests will be oblivious to our marital status, and more focused on enjoying our company and conversation. So focus on having fun and interesting conversations, and as for the frenemies in the group? You can wish them right into the cornfield!
Keep your holidays real
Erika Hirsch, MA, MFT, ATR: The image of the “perfect” holiday host is a very frustrating illusion. Martha Stewart’s version of Christmas is great for magazine photo shoots, but in real life a “perfect” holiday does not equal a happy holiday. Being “perfect” will only result in burning the candle at both ends and being burned out by the New Year. Switch your focus this year to what is realistic, manageable, and most importantly, what is true to your personality. Focusing on “perfect” will take all the fun out of the holidays. Be yourself and, dare I say it, you might enjoy the holiday season.
Top photo, pictured left to right: Patricia O’Laughlin, Gabrielle Forman, Jessica LeRoy, Erika Hirsch; bottom photo: Matt Casper