A Quick & Easy Guide to Managing Holiday Expectations and Social Obligations.
Social obligations can be a huge source of stress for many people, especially those who feel social anxiety or who are going through a difficult period in their lives. It’s ok to limit how many parties or events we attend. Similarly, limiting the amount of time we spend at an event is a great way to manage social obligations. We don’t have to stay for hours! Decide in advance what amount of time might feel comfortable, then have the option of staying longer if desired.
Get into a festive frame of mind! Wear an outfit that feels just right, and add some sparkly earrings or a special hat. Listen to upbeat music and enlist friends to accompany you. There is no rule that we have to attend any gathering where we feel unsafe or where it is certain that there will be arguments or fighting. We can use our best judgment regarding situations that can potentially result in unsafe or risky outcomes.
Most of all, remember boundaries! We are not responsible for another person’s disappointments or moods.
THE EXPECTATION TRAP
No one’s family situation is perfect. We watch Hallmark movies or see Facebook posts and wonder why our families don’t emulate the ones we see on TV or on social media. Hallmark movies are complete fantasies for rainy weekend afternoons, and we all recognize that only the happy, shiny photos are shared on Facebook and Instagram. Resisting the temptation to compare ourselves or our families to those selected scenes on social media can help to put things into a proper perspective. Log off if feelings of frustration, sadness, or stress surface.
At the same time, try to realize that our own situations are not 100% awful either. Be conscious of what is positive in our family and social circles. Develop a perspective that embraces not judging or labeling people or situations. Be open to opportunities that might offer different perspectives than the ones held in the past. If we show up with expectations of doom and gloom, that’s what we’re going to get. Instead, let’s consider bringing our special joy and love of life to the gathering. Greet others, make conversation, and laugh. Show up with positivity and watch what happens!
Expectations come in many forms. We have expectations we force upon ourselves or expectations we allow others to place upon us. On TV once again this year is an advertisement in which a young man purchases two pick-up trucks, one for himself and one for his partner. To top it off, he’s standing outside of a beautiful home. How realistic is that scenario? Then we have the jewelry commercials. Sure, they are romantic and look just like Hallmark movies, and we feel all warm and fuzzy inside when we see them, but at the same time, many people feel hurt or upset because their partner failed to present a gift in the same storybook manner depicted in the advertisements. Similarly, advertisements distort the financial realities of many households. Realize what is realistic and what is not. Just because we see it on TV doesn’t make it real-and we know that. Be conscious of expectations and look at what we do have that brings happiness and love to our lives.