Q: It’s early December and as usual I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the things I needs to get done; school parties, work parties, neighborhood parties, gift shopping, family travel, and decorating the house before we go away for the holiday. It’s too much! Worse yet I can’t seem to get anyone to help. My husband and kids are full of excuses why they aren’t able to assist and when those excuses run out they criticize my requests (I.e., “My teacher doesn’t even need a gift anyway!” or “Why do we have to put up a tree when we aren’t even going to be here?”). I’m so frustrated!

A: We can see why. You have a lot you’re trying to accomplish and no one around you seems to share your agenda, so you likely feel “all alone” in dealing with your stressors. We find that during the holidays most people seem to fall into one of two functional modes; coasters or controllers. Coasters control holiday stress by giving themselves permission to “phone it in” when the demands become too intense. Coasters love gift bags verses wrapping paper. We RSVP “yes” knowing it’s really “maybe.” We might even bring a store bought dish to a potluck (possibly even putting it into our own crockery!). Controllers often try to create a magical, Norman Rockwell sort of experience during the holidays.The problem is that too often our loved ones don’t share our enthusiasm, which can leave you feeling like you are trying to push a boulder up a mountain. It sounds like that’s what’s going on here. Here are a couple of tips that might help you all meet in the middle: 1) Phrase your request in the context of a favor to you or your preference rather than as a “should” or a universal “right thing to do”. This reduces debates about the validity of the request and refocuses it on the personal. 2) Look for opportunities to scale back here and there; embrace the coast a bit. Happy holidays!

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