But What About the Holidays?

Despite the many anxieties they may be enduring, the women I work with tend to be extreme planners. They are the women who manage to organize and juggle the schedules of an entire family or multiple projects at work.

You might feel like a mess, but you are running the world.

Like everything else about 2020, my old list of holiday planning tips has needed to be revised. Here’s what I have come up with so far.

Boundaries and Expectations

No matter what, our planning still revolves around setting boundaries and managing our expectations.

How I set boundaries this year will be different because literal boundaries are different because we are in the midst of a global pandemic, no matter what victories some people may be declaring right now. 

Usually this has been a discussion about psychological and emotional boundaries. This year things are much more literal. Keeping distance from others may be the best way to express our love and for them.

For anyone in recovery from addiction, we have always planned to avoid or manage very carefully the high risk situations involving people drinking or using drugs. 

Avoiding DUIs is even more critical since getting locked up now could involve more potential exposure to COVID-19.

Even if alcohol or drugs are not a problem for you, consider what stress level certain activities cause for you. It is okay to protect your emotional state and prioritize physical safety and sanity.

“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.” -Charles Darwin

Get Creative

With creativity, a strong plan and support. you will make it through even the 2020 holiday season. It may be that you will eat a piece of pie outside with your loved one and then say goodbye and plan to see them on video chat later. That’s okay.

Tip 1: Define your priorities and be proactive

Start your process by deciding what you want the holidays to be about and only let things in that honor what is most important. You can take some quiet time and journal. Talk it over with supportive people. If you live with other people, have a meeting to talk it over together and get everyone on the same page.

send out a pre-holiday message

Get ahead of the problem and inform important people how you plan to handle the holidays this year.  Let them know what your plans are. If your want to, invite them to join you in some activity or other.

Here’s my example of one thing I plan to do.

It has been my tradition for many years to throw a Gingerbread House Party.

Usually this time of year I am trying to figure out which design to use and whether we will be making multiple houses or one big one etc.  

This year I will host it as a virtual event. People are gonna be on their own to create something and show everyone what they can do without my years of experience.

They will need to measure and adjust the cream of tartar for the royal icing on their own. (it is the magic edible glue that cements the gingerbread pieces.}

Watching people struggle and rooting for them from a distance will still be fun. It will be like our own episode of Nailed It!

Tip 2: Gently decline invitations that do not fit your priorities

The biggest obstacle to this is usually the guilt that comes from feeling obligated. This year the “pandemic silver lining” is that avoiding groups of people is actually strongly recommended and may protect people from COVID-19. 

You might still struggle with the guilt. That’s okay. Setting these kind of boundaries might be really new to you. Process how you feel with a therapist or a friend.

Tip : Use the Sandwich Method

For high stress holiday occasions that you’ve decided to attend, plan for before, during and after. 

Before: Have an encouraging friend check in with you and give you a little pep talk before you go. If you work a 12-Step program, go to a meeting and/or talk with your sponsor. 

During: Drive there yourself or with someone who will go with you as an ally. Don’t get trapped. 

If you can bring an ally, have a game plan to support each other. Agree on a signal that means, “let’s get outta here.” 

Bring your own food and drink. This year’s pandemic situation lends itself to this. Going into stressful situations hungry is not a safe place anyway and one never knows what will be provided until you get there. 

Set a time limit. Making a “cameo appearance” might be enough. Remember your priorities and if you are there to see a particular person make spending time with them your goal. 

Be cool. In your interaction with difficult people remember that in the moment you can decide to let their words or actions, “roll off you like water off a duck” and know that you are going to process this afterwards as planned. 

Back up call: If you are going alone, have someone give you a check-in call after a little while there. People on first dates have used this tactic and it can be useful to then have a reason to go without telling them you are leaving because it is an awful party for you. 

After: Plan to check in with a supportive person to debrief  how it went. It might be with the same person who gave you the pep talk or it could be someone else. And just like before, if you work a 12-Step program a meeting after or talk with your sponsor might be really great. Knowing you are going to be talking it through will help as it is going on and probably you will sleep better for having processed a bit.

Self-soothing. Take some time for some self-soothing activity after what you just dealt with. Make sure to pick something you really like and not something self-destructive like alcohol or drugs, especially if they are not part of your priorities for what you want the holiday to be about. Some people love a relaxing bath and for others it may be a favorite show to watch or listen to music you really love, take a walk somewhere nice or have a favorite snack. 

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