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Set Realistic Expectations for the Holidays


Last week I posted the first in a series about surviving the holidays. We are almost on the eve of Thanksgiving in the U.S., so let's talk about keeping our expectations for the holidays on a realistic level.

We are all victims of every media-driven image of Happy Holidays - from cherished old movies, holiday music CDs that every artist seems to release, holiday-themed magazine articles to our own family and friend's ideas of the perfect gathering.

Although it may sound like the "glass is half empty" mentality, I try to keep my expectations for the holidays quite low. I hope to see people I care about, have some extra time with my spouse, pick out some fun gifts and enjoy seasonal foods. Beyond that, I don't expect much. If some special things happen, I'm pleasantly surprised.

The following is a handout I usually give to patients this time of year. Years ago, I started passing them out to newly-recovering patients in drug and alcohol treatment. As the holidays are key times for relapse, it serves as a reminder about "acceptance." Acceptance of our family relationships and ourselves as less than perfect beings. The author is anonymous.

Holidays

Holiday time is here: so is the challenge to treat one another with grace and to remember the importance of the connections between us.

It isn't easy, so here are a few rules:


  • Take very good care of yourself so you aren't stressed out or crabby.

  • Don't expect or attempt perfection; settle for anything short of a disaster.

  • Don't ask if the pies are homemade.

  • Don't correct or criticize anyone.

  • Choose to be happy, not right.

  • Don't care who gets the credit for whatever.

  • Avoid competition and comparison; don't keep score.

  • Give up playing martyr or victim.

  • When in doubt, keep quiet.

  • Remember, very few things are important.

Then thank everyone for staying alive so you can love or hate them for another year. Your family may not be perfect, but they're yours!

Nancy L., LISW, LICDC

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