Resetting Expectations, Preparing for Holiday Stress

“If we are honest, most of us will admit that with the holidays come all sorts of complicated expectations for perfection: a perfectly decorated house; the perfect gift; and perfect harmony in our relationships,” says PC&CC therapist Ginny Graham. “Try to let go of the myth of perfection that the media goes to such great lengths to promote. Instead, decide on only one aspect of the holidays and focus your need for perfection there.” Graham suggests concentrating on great cookies, a pretty tree, or well-wrapped gifts. As for all of the other aspects of the holiday, she advises that we try to maintain a sense of humor for the predictable craziness that often sets in.

She also recommends preparing in advance for the stress that often comes in the door with anticipated guests at holiday time. “For many, adult children will be coming home to visit. Their needs, both conscious and unconscious, can add even more fuel to the fires of our already challenged relationships,” Graham says. “Couples who talk ahead of time about the predictable anxiety that might occur stand a better chance than those who blind themselves with the hope that this time everybody will get along. This attempt to step back ahead of time becomes a gift of awareness, that couples can offer each other.”