Making Christmas changes to prevent bad feelings

I could never sit around while someone else was working and I don't understand how my family can see me being so busy and not help...

It’s the same every year, Christmas is over and I am exhausted. I’m also feeling angry and resentful. It seems like everyone else is happy and relaxed and enjoying their days off work and I wish that was how I felt, too.

The problem is that Christmas is so such work for me. It’s more work than if I went to work! We have family come to stay and the big dinner is at our house. For days on end I am cooking and cleaning while everyone else visits.

I could never sit around while someone else was working and I don’t understand how my family can see me being so busy and not help.

Dinner was really good and everyone said so, and I wish that made me feel that it was all worth the effort. Instead I just feel taken advantage of. Every year I look forward to Christmas and hope that it will be great, but every year I feel the same. I love my family so much and I feel bad for harbouring these feelings. How can I get rid of them?

I can see why you feel exhausted, angry, and resentful. That sure sounds like a lot of work.

Asking for help with this tells me that you are ready to make some changes so that next year will be better for you. Change can be uncomfortable and hard work, but well worth the effort.

You have a year to work at making changes for next Christmas!

It is quite possible that, over the years, you may have actually trained your family that you can take care of everything, that you love to cook and clean for them, that they can sit whilst you work, or that you don’t need any help. If that is the case, it’s time to make some changes.

Here are a few things you can do through the year to effect change for next Christmas:

• Improve your self-esteem.

If you find that you are always doing things for others and putting yourself last then there is room for boosting your self-esteem. Try balancing your own needs with those of others and treating yourself a little better.

Take some time to relax, do something you really enjoy, register for a class you always wanted to take, make a date with friends, take a day off from obligations — it doesn’t matter what it is as long as it lets you enjoy yourself and relieves you of caring for others. Another part of improving self-esteem is to think more positively about yourself. Take stock of your thoughts and if you notice that you routinely put yourself down, think about how you speak to friends and hold your self thoughts to the same standard. In other words, treat yourself as well as you treat others.

• Learn how to say “no.”

Never saying “no” usually leads to people being taken advantage of and feeling resentful. It also teaches others to expect that you will always say “yes.” It will be uncomfortable and maybe even scary at first, but you really need to learn how to do this.

• Ask for help.

Instead of handling everything yourself, try asking for assistance. Others won’t always notice what you could use help, especially if they see you as very competent and in no need of assistance. Like saying “no,” asking for help might feel awkward and uncomfortable, but don’t give up. If you start small and practise this through the year, you will be in fine shape for delegating chores next Christmas.

• Relinquish a little control and learn to let go of how things “should” be.

When you delegate some of the chores, you will also need to relinquish control over those chores. Things might not be done exactly as you would have done them and you can’t monitor the details or you will spend as much energy trying to control other people as you were spending doing it yourself.

Striving for perfection is not always the best course of action. Spending time together and building relationships is more important than having a perfect meal or a perfectly clean house.

Best of luck in the coming year as you work at making these changes. Here’s to new possibilities for next Christmas.

If you wish to ask a question of the counsellors, for a response in future columns, e-mail them at info@pacifictherapy.ca. Consult a Counsellor is provided by registered clinical counsellors Nancy Bock, Diane Davies Leslie Wells, Andrew Lochhead and Sara-Lynn Kang at pacific therapy & consulting inc. It appears every second Thursday in the Record.

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