Healthy Relationships During the Holidays
● By Hood Magazine
By Greta Stewart, Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center
Traditions: You Don’t Have To Do Anything
When it comes to traditions over the holidays, experts recommend remembering that you have a say. The key is to take some control over the holidays, instead of letting them control you. For instance, you may find the family obligations of the holidays overwhelming. You have to make the fruitcake according to your grandmother’s recipe, even though you find it inedible. You have to leave a poinsettia on your grandfather’s grave, even though it’s three hours and two states away. You don’t exactly want to do any of these things. You just have to.
This holiday season, don’t unthinkingly do things the same way just because that’s how you always do them. If the old holiday traditions aren’t working, if they’re not making you happy and causing holiday stress, it’s time to do something different. “Start new family traditions for your family,” Lezlee Greguson, Ph.D., licensed psychologist at Avera Midwest Psychiatry Medicine, states.
- Take your kids to help serve meals to the homeless.
- Adopt a family less fortunate than you.
- Have a potluck dinner in place of your regular holiday meal.
- Have a winter picnic.
- Have a family pajama day.
“I think family members can learn from traditions that it can be wonderful to carry traditions through generations, but don’t be too upset if you can’t keep up every element,” Greguson warns. “Also, if you’re starting a new tradition, consider how it plays into family dynamics. In adding in a new tradition, try to remember to keep it consistent from prior years. Children like predictability and consistency, and this may create a calming, more enjoyable time for everyone.”
Family relationships and traditions can be complicated, explains Ken Duckworth, MD, medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
“There’s this idea that holiday gatherings with family are supposed to be joyful and stress-free,” he says. “That’s not the case. Family relationships are complicated. But that doesn’t mean that the solution is to skip the holidays entirely.”
Remember, some people may write off signs of serious depression as mere holiday stress. It’s unwise – even dangerous – to ignore depression symptoms for weeks or months in the hopes that they’ll just disappear come January. So while holiday stress about maintaining relationships and traditions may be seasonal, depression can be year-round. If your holiday anxiety seems severe or is interfering with your job or home life, talk to your doctor, a counselor, friend, or family member to receive support.