Some people look forward to the holidays and others dread them. If you take charge of your holidays this year, you can make your holidays happier and more satisfying with some tips Iíve shared with my clients, and am sharing with you.
1) Set advance boundaries with family, friends, and work.
My 30-year-old client Michelle gets depressed this time of year. She sacrifices too much all year long, so Christmas always brings extra stress. She has a high pressure job that has given her extra work lately, a husband who wants her attention constantly, and two children who text her all day long. She feels overwhelmed. In our last session we came up with boundaries for her to set: 1) talk to her boss about getting help, 2) tell the kids to stop texting so much and make a special ring for them to separate those calls from work calls, 3) set aside alone time where she puts her phone on silence, and 4) buy some full spectrum light bulbs to put on her desk (in case the shorter days this time of year are causing seasonal affective disorder). Because she has a plan, she's feeling better already, especially since she's been taking fun time for herself.
Some other boundaries you may want to set involve boundaries for your family on Christmas Day, such as, ďIíll only be there for 2 hours mom, so donít get upset when I have to leave.Ē ďIím going to have wine with dinner, so donít say anything when I do.Ē After dinner, Joanie and I are going out, so know that I have plans for that evening.Ē ďIf you do criticize my weight again, Iíll remind you to stop once, and if you donít, Iíll leave.Ē Setting advance boundaries prepares your family, instead of surprising them, when you want to have changes they might not like. Boundaries keep you in charge of your time, the way you're treated, and how satisfied you will be.
2) Create Intimacy by speaking the truth
My client Leslie, who is in her late 30's, gets upset every Christmas because when her dad comes into town, he criticizes not only her mom (his ex-wife) to her, but he also criticizes Leslie's single life, always giving her unsolicited advice. He even recently criticized one of her Facebook posts. That was the last straw! She called him and let him know that he had to stop treating her like a kid who can't handle her own life, and to stop badmouthing mom in front of her. We've discussed that she has a few more things to tell him when he gets in town for Christmas, i.e. his self-righteousness, his condescending and controlling ways, and how he made her feel "not good enough" her whole childhood, and how that relates to her dating problems. She also needs to stop him every time he crosses a boundary and tell him to stop, reminding him of their talk.
It's important to speak openly and honestly with anyone who has hurt you and especially if they are hurting you now. I know you don't want to create hostility during the holidays, but how many times will you let these issues go? Most of us wish we felt closer to the person sitting beside us at the holiday dinner table. Just because your family usually doesn't talk intimately doesn't mean you can't. You can be closer if you will be more real since authenticity creates intimacy. Say what you need to say, hopefully in private if it's negative. But also take every opportunity to take conversations to a deeper level and try getting closer to those you care about. Ask a relative you would like to be closer to or have an issue with to take a walk or a trip to the store to have that private time. Be open about yourself and ask them personal questions. Stay up late once itís quiet and talk to someone you love. Write a long letter to a friend or relative that you havenít had time to see. Share your good and bad feelings, as this will create emotional intimacy.
3) Don't let others guilt-trip or pressure you.
My 60-year-old client Ralph has trouble with his sister and other family members this time of year. They want him to go to church with him, and he often goes ahead and goes (to be with the family), even though they are a different religion than he is. Then she and her husband try again and again to convince him to switch and join their church. This year I urged him to meet with his sister for lunch in advance to let her know that he not only wasn't going to go this year, but that he wants her and her husband to back off on their religion and respect that he has his own beliefs. He joked that it is their turn to go with him, but also offered a different get-together, like dinner, in place of the church gathering.
Like Ralph, make your holidays more like you want them by telling your family or friends what your expectations are this year. Donít spend the holidays just meeting obligations to others. Balance what you want to do with what you feel you should do. When friends or family tell you things you should do this holiday season, stop them. Tell them that you wonít feel guilty for trying to enjoy yourself. For instance, say, ďI know I should visit Aunt Matilda while Iím home, but Iíve decided not to this year and I donít want you trying to make me feel guilty." Don't spend the holidays meeting obligations to others. Do what you want to do to have fun.
4) Lower your expectations.
We all have our fantasies of how we want the holiday to be, often forgetting how they turned out in the past, thinking that this time will be different. You can still hope for the best, but you must prepare for the worse, i.e. your uncle getting drunk, your sister making a scene, a family member being rude to you, or whatever. Weíre all from dysfunctional families. Our mom, dad, or brother probably didnít express their love the way we wanted them to as we grew up, why would we think they will this year? If the issues can't get resolved, have a plan that will make you feel better for when things go wrong. Try to think, "How could I make myself happier and maybe even have fun right now? It could be playing your favorite music, or taking a walk, or going to your room and texting someone, or leaving (and telling them why) -- whatever will put you in a better mood and make you feel better. As they say, "hope for the best and prepare for the worst."
5) Donít overbook.
Learn to say no. We often want to please everyone, even at our own expense. If you try to do too much, you will resent it and probably end up exploding at the wrong people. Think each situation through and only say yes to things that really sound like something you want to do. And even then, donít try to fit in more than one thing at a time or youíll end up exhausted. And, don't overgive presents or money either, as it will probably cause resentments. My client Kelly decided not to do all the gifts this year, so she let people know she was doing a different kind of Christmas. Instead, she has been going to a flower shop and buying a bunch of flowers and taking them to someone she has recently thought of. She says this has been fun and has helped her get back into the Christmas spirit since she is truly giving in a way she wants to and that make her happy!
6) Get involved.
Whether itís getting involved with helping prepare the meal or getting involved with the soup kitchen for the poor (but not out of guilt), getting involved always makes you feel connected. If you donít want to help cook, plan the music for that holiday. Or, go sing holiday songs at the nearest old folks home, or join a meet up group to socialize with others this time of year.
7) Take care of yourself.
Don't over-commit your time to parties or charity or preparing food. If you have time off, be sure and declare at least one day for you to do nothing, except what you feel like doing. Consider it a present to yourself. Also, before you spend time with people you haven't seen in awhile, remind yourself of how great you are, and how much you have accomplished so that your self-esteem will be strong when you see them. Be sure that your happiness and comfort are the focus. Imagine the holiday the way you want it, i.e. special time with your dad? A trip to the casinos? A Christmas breakfast with friends? Going to a play? Speak up about what you want. And if your family doesnít agree, find a way to fit in some things you want to do without them.
Most people think the holidays is supposed to mean sacrificing and overgiving instead of enjoying themselves. Take away your stress and guilt and overbooking and make sure this is a happier, more satisfying holiday this year!
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When we were growing up and did something our parents didn't like, they usually told us we were being bad or that we were a bad kid. Today we all know how damaging that is to kids and how it affected our own self-esteem. Many of us are still struggling with feelings that we're not good enough. As if that were not bad enough, these feelings are often perpetuated in our adult relationships.
One of the biggest problems in relationships is the lack of respecting each others' differences. When we're a couple, we often think we should both have the same opinions, our mate should like what we like, enjoy the same hobbies, want to exercise if we do, enjoy the same people we do, have the similar values, etc. And if they don't, we often think they should "put up with what we like" if they love us. When this happens, we often criticize them or they criticize us -- just like our parents did. We send our mate the message that he's a bad person or believe that we are.
Because we heard it so much as a child (whether it was said to us, our siblings, or our parents saying it to each other), the "bad person" message often just pops out of our mouths without us even thinking about it. We may not always say it directly, as our style may be more like insinuating or behaving passive/aggressively. But, the message is clear. It's a constant blow to our self-esteem and often leaves one of us depressed and down on ourselves, with little hope. Couples get married promising to love and cherish each other, then instead, often make each other feel bad about themselves. They both become beaten down and unable to help each other find solutions to the problems. Instead it becomes a contest of who's the worst person.
Most couples who come in for marriage counseling have been doing this "bad person" thing for a long time, and nothing makes each one feel more unloved than feeling like their mate thinks they are a bad person. They make fun of and criticize their differences and habits with put downs. She says he's killing himself because he drinks too much beer. He says she has a bad attitude and is no fun. He stays up late watching TV and can't understand why she goes to bed so early. She coldly says, "Why wouldn't I since we have no relationship or life together." He's an overspender on big items and she tries to be frugal, and feels like he has spent too much of her money. They disagree on just about everything. The issues never get talked about or resolved. They sometimes ignore each other, sometimes fight, but both regularly hear the "bad person" message from each other, whether spoken or not. And anyone who hears this message over and over will start to believe it and start to feel "not good enough."
The #1 key to staying in love is obvious: Don't make your mate feel like a bad person. When you tell someone or insinuate that they are bad, they start to believe it and have nothing to lose by continuing their bad behavior. On the other hand, if you tell them they are a good person, but they are doing some bad behavior, they are more likely to try to live up to being that good person. The point is to focus on his/her "behavior," not an attitude toward him as a bad person. You should be firm about what you are requesting, and not assume that he knows that his behavior is hurting you or that he knows what you want him to do about it. You need to always ask him or her directly for what you want, and let him know how you are going to handle it if it doesn't change the behavior. Don't immediately threaten to leave. Instead use something that relates to the problem, i.e. "If you don't stop spending the money in our joint account, I'm going to take my money and open a separate account." Then follow through so that next time he or she will actually believe what you are telling them.
If you have been telling your mate that he is a bad person, whether directly or indirectly, you need to sit down and have a conversation about this and apologize, even if you are angry about a ton of things. The same is true if he or she has been doing this to you. Explain this concept, tell your mate that he has made you feel like a bad person, and declare, "I'm not letting you or anyone else make me feel like I'm a bad person anymore. If you are upset about something I'm doing, tell me how you feel and what the issue is instead of putting me down as a person." If you put me down again, I'll just say, "You're doing it again," and I'll walk away. If and when you stop sending "bad person" messages, you may be surprised as to how much better your mate will listen.
Sending your mate the message that he or she is a bad person because they are different than you will always destroy the love in the relationship. On the other hand, stopping that behavior allows your mate to feel respected even when you have many differences. Build the respect and keep the love going by changing this #1 key to staying in love.
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Happy Birthday Carolyn Nordin Bushong. "I will always consider you one of the most important people in my life. I wouldn't be where I am today without your kind and loving counsel. You changed my life."
Happy Birthday and thank you for all you have taught me. I am thankful for you!
Happy Birthday Carolyn - Without you there would be no us and thanks to you and Jeff "us" will soon celebrate 48 years of marriage......Hugs to you.
Happy Birthday to a forever inspiration.
I bought your 7 Dumbest Dating Mistakes book. It has been really helpful in giving me many "light-bulb moments" so far! The changes I already made after a couple of appointments with you have elicited some good responses so far. I have already begun to date someone. So things are looking up! :)
Lol u always will be the cool girl!
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Carolyn Bushong, L.P.C, is an expert on relationships and a licensed therapist. She is known for being one of the top relationship therapists in the country and the author of 3 relationship books. She has appeared on Oprah, the View, and many other TV shows, and she has been giving relationship advice on Denver radio for more than15 years. She has been helping people like you improve your life and relationships for more than 30 years. Cosmo, US Weekly and other magazines quote her expert relationship advice, and McCallís named her one of the ďTop 6 Passion DoctorsĒ in the country. Carolyn Bushong always has fresh, up-to-date, hot information on topics that will inspire you and change your life and improve your relationships. She has clients all over the country, some who come into her office and others who receive Carolyn's expert advice through phone counseling. Carolyn Bushong is an excellent psychotherapist, but she also lives what she teaches, as she is in a happy, healthy relationship with Alan, her mate of 27 years.
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How to get Carolyn Bushong's Relationship Advice:
Individual Counseling: l hour or Ĺhr sessions in office
or phone, Health Insurance covers a portion. Couples Counseling:
1 Ĺ hr. sessions, Health Ins. covers a portion.
Phone Counseling is a great way to do therapy, especially for the really busy person who's constantly on the go, or the person who is shy or hesitant to talk about their problem, or when the weather is bad and you don't want to drive to a therapist's office. It just makes sense in this day and age to be able to call and discuss a problem and get advice on a situation with having to leave work and drive to my office.
Email Advice: Visit Carolyn's website for more information.