The food began with the antipasto:
(Obviously my husband is Italian, so we started with this traditional dish before we moved to the pasta, then the turkey, then dessert.) When we were finished (six and a half hours later) this is what I felt like:
Now the Christmas/Channukah/New Year's season has begun. I love the holidays, but yes, they can be a bit frantic. There is so much I want to do: see concerts, decorate, get together with friends, visit family, revise that NaNoWriMo novel, do well at books signings, etc. Sometimes it can make a person anxious, depressed, angry, sad, exhausted, disappointed, and/or afraid. For those of us with loved ones-family or friends-who suffer from a chronic condition, whether it's a physical or mental illness, it's important to keep a handle on things that are stressors. The National Alliance on Mental Illness put together these guidelines which they share every holiday season and I want to pass along to everyone:
1) Talk with one another about your expectations of the holiday season. In particular ask your loved one what they envision as the best scenario and then discuss your own… make concessions on both sides and have a plan for dealing with problems.
2) Anticipate problem areas such as situations that your relative (and you) cannot handle well.
3) Make some strategic plans for handling these potential hot spots.
4) Remember, visitors can always rent a hotel room. Neither you nor they have to stay with extended family. Limit time exposed to relatives or friends that hurt more than help.
5) Develop a secret code that means “get me out of here!”
6) Don’t let adult children fall back into the “child” role when visiting.
7) Don’t over-schedule yourselves.
8) Work on creating good memories.
9) Start new family traditions. Do what is most comfortable.
10) Remember to focus on your relationships and not on getting things done.
11) Make time to have fun or attain peace and quiet.
12) If there’s something you really don’t want to do during the holidays, say so.
13) Be gentle with yourself. The ideal holiday doesn’t exist.
14) Don’t compare yourself with others, or judge yourself or others.
15) Find a place where you can be completely alone each day even if it is just for a little while and retreat.
16) Prioritize what is important – Eliminate what is not.
17) Learn the difference between complaining that relieves tension and complaining that causes it.
18) At the end of each day focus on what is good.
19) As you fall asleep make a realistic mental list of what is crucial to be accomplished next day. You really should blank on this one because nothing beats taking care of yourself and your loved one and avoiding stress is important.
20) Learn to say NO, thank you.
21) Holiday cards … not really necessary … or just write them out as you get them from others if it bothers you.
22) Gifts … does anyone really need another kitchen gadget? Give the gift of time or food. Discuss in advance that you won’t be exchanging gifts, very understandable in this current economic environment.
23) Decorations … keep it simple. Don’t make work for yourself unless it is a source of relaxation and pleasure.
24) Visitors, company … Holidays are too intense. See them after holidays. Set aside a time. Large crowds can be disturbing and bring about different opinions and expectations. Our ill relatives don’t understand that when company is there your attention has to be focused on them.
25) Go out and do something different … go to a movie, walk in a park, ride the ferry. You do not need to do anything.
26) Make plans that exclude your ill relative – if it is ok with them then it should be ok with you. Guilt should not be part of the decision.
Some helpful websites:
PsychCentral holiday survival guide: http://psychcentral.com/holidays/
Psychology Today holiday tips: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/life-without-anxiety/201212/10-tips-surviving-the-holidays
There is nothing to 'celebrate' if we're miserable, so I wish you all a comfortable, peaceful, holiday.
Artwork courtesy of Microsoft Clip Art
Holiday list courtesy of NAMI of Somerset County