Surviving and Thriving at Holiday Gatherings

Practical steps for turning stress into an adventure


Ahh, the holidays. Some of us think of the smells, sights, sounds and have great memories. And even with the great memories, the holidays can be an overwhelming task-list ending in exhaustion. On the flip side, others of us cringe when the weather starts to change. Bad family history or spoiled memories can really affect our mood when the holidays approach. But, whether you love or loathe the holidays, here are some practical steps in dealing with gatherings that may just turn your good (or bad) stress into an adventure.

  1. Lower your expectations. This many sound incredibly silly. You never hear people telling you to “expect less.” Marketing tells you to expect more! But from my experiences, when I expect less, I gain more. If you’re planning the gathering: reach out for help, you’re not a one (wo)man island. Don’t expect perfection, we are human. Allow for mistakes (because they will occur). These are just some quick tips, but I implore you to sit down and think of some ways you personally will benefit from simplifying. If you work endlessly to create the perfect gathering, work during the entire gathering, and crash after the gathering, what is the point?! Ask yourself, “What is the point? What is my motivation?” If you’re attending the gathering, simply expect to just be in the presence of others. There are also steps below you can apply to expecting less.
  1. Show-up for an adventure. If you have agreed to turkey-too-big‘show-up’ it can be healthy and rewarding if you view the occasion as a new adventure. Rethink of the gathering as a place you’ve never been. Try to see new things; be curious. I was in awe of my two-year-old walking up to a house she had never been before for a pumpkin party. Was she biting her nails worried about what to wear and what will be said of her? Nope. She walked right up and made some new best friends. We can show up in wonder like a two-year-old. I give you permission to make it an adventure. Holiday gatherings can be fun if you use your magination.
  1. Show-up and listen. I can’t tell you how many times I failed to engage with someone because I thought, “What will I say?” I am sure you can relate. If you’re like me, we get stuck in feeling we need to be eloquent or intelligent or funny. What about the age-old practice of listening to someone? Really, just saying “How are you?” and then listening. I bomb at this so often. But, when I remember to practice this, I don’t have to worry about going to impress, I just go to be human and really hear someone. Aren’t the holidays about humanity anyway? James 1 reminds me, “be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” With that being said, don’t judge what you hear, waiting to retort, just be available to listen.
  1. Bearing presence … and I don’t mean presents. Yes, the Wise Men brought gifts to Jesus. And I agree, many of us speak the love language of ‘giving and receiving’ gifts. But, with that being said, the holidays are not about presents. They are about being thankful. They are about people, humanity and love being poured out. I encourage, plead, beseech again you to find your motivation in the season. “Keeping up with the Joneses” is the days of old. Experience your holiday with just being available with the ones you love and be loved.aaeaaqaaaaaaaareaaaajdi0ngiynzbjltjmogqtngvhyi1hm2q3ltk5owmzndlkzgzlng
  1. Practice good boundaries. Luchetta core values encompass four points; one of them is growth and another is relationships. Those two require the constant practice of good boundaries. In essence, set a line, don’t be afraid to speak up (in the most loving way), and enforce your set lines with actions. We make boundaries because we love people, we don’t make them to punish people. Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend state in the book Boundaries, “Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom. Taking responsibility for my life opens up many different options. Boundaries help us keep the good in and the bad out. Setting boundaries inevitably involves taking responsibility for your choices. You are the one who makes them. You are the one who must live with their consequences. And you are the one who may be keeping yourself from making the choices you could be happy with.”
  1. Have an escape plan. When I say an escape plan,I don’t mean what happens when the turkey goes dry. I am explicitly talking to the people who are growing in anxiety about being around the family. I could be in this category. I am already rehearsing 1954 Dwhere I won’t go because who will be there. I don’t want to deal with certain people and the drama/fear/pain/anger/frustration they bring. Let’s face it, some of us have toxic families. I recently experienced this where my husband,
    Vince, and I were reeling with imaginary conflict. We were pre-planning our justified storming out. I am not saying you should storm out of Christmas dinner. I am saying, if the worst happened, if you feel unsafe or you can’t work through emotional triggers; we are adults, we have the ability to move, we aren’t trapped, we can stand up and kindly walk out.


I hope these tips will help you cope with family gatherings this holiday season.


b3Bethany Luchetta is a small business woman who works from home while raising her vibrant two-year-old daughter, Livvy Lou. She is in love with her hubby of six years, Vincent. Bethany is a proud step mama of Vince’s two older daughters, Paige and Makayla. Bethany comes from a very large, complicated family, being raised with two sisters; and additionally has two half-brothers. As an adult, she now has a stepbrother and stepsister, as well as handfuls of brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law. Bethany is blessed to have handfuls of parents and she adores all her nieces and nephews and godchildren. The family tree of cousins and aunts and uncles seems endless, all of whom she gladly loves, and attempts to like. Additionally, she is blessed to still have two biological grandparents still kickin’.

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