The whole holiday season is intended to unite us, to remind us of the bonds we hold dear with friends, family, and loved ones; to remind us of the customs, beliefs, and traditions that have served for centuries to make us whole and remind us who we are. Surely that’s the intention, and yet for many of us, we can’t help feeling that maybe something was lost in the modern translation.

A holiday hazard that underlies much of the stress people experience in this season is the hazard of expectations. Instead of touchstones and precious memories, the traditions that families and communities strive to observe can feel like imperatives, like standards we must fulfill in complete detail. To be unable to re-create past Holidays exactly can feel like failure.

So, one big, underlying tip for putting everyone more at ease is to realize and share the fact that traditions are not judgments. Today’s holidays, in fact, are the only ones we can create.

A Time Machine for Feelings

Another phenomenon that people notice with discomfort is the tendency that families must travel back in time when they get together for holiday celebrations. Remembering good times is the upside. The downside is to feel a powerful, gravitational pull toward our old identities and relationships. Sometimes, around a holiday table, people feel their childhood roles within the family return with a vengeance. If someone used to grab the attention, if another tried in vain to be heard, if another stepped in as peacemaker, or another stayed tense and vigilant, those responses and adaptations can arise again. The feelings triggered by seeing the same people in a similar setting can bring back roles we outgrew decades ago.

Three Things to Bring the Good to Light

So, yet again, the solution is to “be here now.” Managing relationships during the holidays starts with three key skills: We notice how we feel right now, not getting lost in what we used to feel, or what we think we’re supposed to feel. We give some conscious thought to what we need, in this moment. Is it more information, more time, more recognition? And then we use the skills we built in the years since “the old days,” to make sure our own needs are met, so that we have something genuine to offer the people we love.

It’s hard to give with a whole heart when you’re feeling less than whole yourself. What we’re suggesting isn’t selfishness, but rather awareness. It might seem subtle, but it is the solid foundation for good feelings and relationships – just what we want from our holidays.

It’s a good idea, too, to remember that your family physician is standing by you in these days as well as all the others. In fact, the holidays remind us of all the good things that depend on our health.

If you don’t have a regular family physician, well that’s the essence of our practice. Just call us at 843-815-6468.