Ready or Not, Here Come the Holidays!

By: Helen M. Thamm, APRN, CPC

 Are you ready (emotionally) for the hustle and bustle of the holiday season?  Do you look forward to your family turkey day, which is just around the corner, and the big holidays in December?   Sometimes the holidays seem to just creep up on us, and we just can’t figure out where the pre-planning time went.  I know there have been sometimes I have had to do some last minute shopping for my family, because I only go home to Chicago for Thanksgiving, so I bring Christmas gifts for my special family members and friends—on the plane.  Yes, it can be a challenge since I try to only take one bag, but you would be surprised how many small treasures can fit in one bag!

As you can tell I am one of the lucky people to have a loving—although not perfect—family to return home to for the holidays.  I am aware some people dread getting together with their natural families, due to past less than positive experiences, and some people don’t have a family to be with on holidays (at least not “natural” family). At times also expectations of family (or friends who I consider to be part of my family) may be a little too high, and disappointment then usually follows.

I find having more realistic expectations of others I care about helps, as sometimes even the “coolest” family members might be experiencing life challenges that can affect how they interact with others.  Last Thanksgiving, my best friend was getting laid off from her job, my niece was having problems, my older first cousin had broken his shoulder during the summer and it was still noticeably stiff and one of my other friends had just lost her son from a freak accident he had falling in his shower.  I sure hope you are not experiencing that many adverse life happenings this holiday season!

Tips to have more positive holiday get togethers:

  1. Be realistic about your expectations.  If you are a very organized person and either one of your dishes is not cooked at precisely the exact same time as the others (or your host has the same challenge) try distracting yourself by talking with your favorite family member about a positive subject, to keep busy, while the last dish catches up.
  2. Be aware you do have options, such as wisely separating (by at least two people) family members who do not get along to avoid the otherwise inevitable arguments they get into if they are together for any length of time.  However, also be realistic that you can’t totally control another person’s behavior.
  3. If you get a bit anxious either due to interacting with a big group or one of more family members, try to take small breaks (I like the smallest room in the house, bet you know which one) to relax for a few minutes and deep breathe if the stimulation becomes a bit too much.
  4. If you can’t be with your family, calling them on the phone (I do that on Christmas Day) is one way to feel connected, even from a long distance away from them.
  5. If you don’t have family nearby, or that you feel you wish to be with, remember friends can also be considered family. Many people I know either invite them over, go to their house for dinner, or even go out to a restaurant, (or in my town to a local church that offers a free scrumptious turkey dinner on both holidays) to celebrate.

Sometimes it takes a little creativity to help make the season bright!



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About the Author: Helen Thamm, APRN, CPC is a licensed nurse therapist. Author, Certified Professional Career and Wellness Specialist. She is the Co-Author of the bestseller “The Wellness Code” with Dr. John Ellis. Visit for a free copy of her ebook “How to Manage with a Magic Wand (No, Don’t Hit Your “Problem Employees” over the Head with it!)” and tips on career success and wellness issues.