Thanksgiving was pretty stressful for me this year. I was so looking forward to going home, but wasn’t there 24 hours before everyone started driving me crazy. The tension was high because my parents are constantly fighting. The quality time I was looking forward to spending with my sister turned out to be me alone in my room, while she spent all of her time with her boyfriend. The friendships from high school that used to provide some refuge and relief have grown distant.
I am so happy to be back at school. I am dreading Christmas break. Not sure how I’m going to manage the entire month of January, since I’m not taking a J-term. I need some helpful ideas on how to make the time at home more bearable. My anxiety about being back in that environment is really high. I’m also just sad — sad that home is no longer the place that I remember it being when I grew up.
Home for the Holidays
I have been hearing a lot of stories about the break being less than what many had hoped it would be. Mine wasn’t ideal either, but I went into it knowing that would be the case. I think that helped. In the past, I’ve painted a picture in my head about holidays and focused on it being the “most wonderful time of the year”. I chose to remember all of the good that comes from the holidays. And although it’s great to remember the blessings that come from family gatherings, it’s okay to acknowledge that things often change. People frequently change. Traditions will likely change.
Keep expectations realistic. Television and social media make this difficult. Hallmark movies with mostly happy endings and pictures of friends and family get-togethers add to the perception that everyone is feeling joyful this holiday season. We all know this isn’t the case, but we tend to feel gypped when we start comparing our lives to the lives of others.
Sounds like your family situation has changed from years ago. Although relationships can deepen over the years, relationships can also become more complicated. That’s the nature of life. Hopefully there have been some wonderful moments as you have aged, but with that also comes hard realities. The more we accept the change; the more content we will be. Try to remember that you can only control yourself. If you know your parents fight a lot, give yourself some distance, and don’t kid yourself into thinking that the Christmas season will relieve the tension between them. If your sister is really into spending time with her boyfriend, talk to her ahead of time about carving out some special time for the two of you. If in January you know you’ll have a lot of time on your hands, pick up more hours at work, and plan a long weekend to visit some of your college friends. This is called coping with the new situation you found yourself in at home.
Above all, give yourself time to feel whatever you are feeling. If you are sad, grieve the loss. If your family has a good evening together, celebrate the joy. Be gentle with yourself. Plan for some time for self-care, knowing that the situation might be stressful. The things around you might feel out of control, but you always have control over your own thoughts, feelings and behaviors. You chose what you take part in, what you take personally, and how you interpret people and events.
Just being in the moment can help. Try not to predict or over-analyze too much. That just raises the anxiety. Practicing mindfulness before the holidays approach can bring a lot of peace when the chaos actually begins at home. There are some great podcasts out there regarding the topic. Prayer and meditation and good ole fresh air and exercise help relieve the tension, so don’t be afraid to excuse yourself when things become stressful.
Above all, try to remember the reason for the season, despite all that’s happening in your life. I know it’s hard, but counting your blessings is always a sure way to lift your mood. In light of everything going on in the world right now, those of us at Loras College are doing better than most.