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Editorial: Expectations Create Holiday Stress

BY CARY QUASHEN, ACTION FAMILY COUNSELING

ex·pec·ta·tion, (ek-spek-ˈtā-shən)

n.

1.

a. The act of expecting.

b. Eager anticipation.

2. The state of being expected.

3.

a. Something expected: a result that did not live up to expectations.

b. expectations. Prospects, especially of success or gain.

 

Sound familiar; we live our lives with expectations. But somehow we seem to set ourselves up.  

Thanksgiving was barely over and it seemed we were chomping at the bit and ready to race out the door for our Black Friday shopping experience. No wonder the holidays are stressful. We expected great bargains, but the truth is, that in just a few hours many of us over spent our budgets hurling us into massive credit card debuts come January 2013.  

And how many of you sighed, a sigh of relief, after your brother or sister left the holiday dinner exclaiming “Glad that’s over. We don’t have to endure that relationship one more minute until next year.”

Movies like "Miracle on 24th Street," "White Christmas," "A Charlie Brown Christmas," "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas," and "The Christmas Story" about Ralphie, who longed for that very special Red Rider BB gun, often sets us up with the expectation that our lives should be perfect and we should get what we want when we want it. These movies may telegraph the feeling that life is perfect if we only believe. 

Often unrealistic expectations set us up for failure and holiday sadness. And some of us even sink into a dark, deep depression.               

So just how should we handle the holidays? 

 

Holidays The Dos and Don'ts

  • Don't cling to visions of a Norman Rockwell family moment. That happens only in paintings.
  • Do consider family problems when planning celebratory gatherings. If your brother drinks too much, avoid a dinner party and throw a dry holiday brunch instead.
  • Don't travel out of guilt. Have an honest conversation with your family about how difficult it is for you to make a trip during the holidays. Suggest visiting, say, in February, when you'll have more time to really see one another.
  • Do be flexible with your partner. Some traditions are definitely worth fighting for, but you may be able to let others go.
  • Don't force yourself to revel. If office parties or family gatherings are painful, honor your need to celebrate in your own private way.
  • Don't isolate yourself. Seek out kindred souls and spend time with them. If join a support group, volunteer at a homeless shelter, or shop for elderly neighbors so you have some human contact.

Rethink and reframe your holiday expectations. Relax and enjoy the holidays.

Cary Quashen is a certified addiction specialist and the founder and president of the Action Parent & Teen Support Group Programs and the Action Family Counseling Centers. Quashen may be reached at (661) 297-8691.