When expectations and a sense of obigation are present, feelings of stress usually arise. When my stress gets too high, I generally begin to shut down. Depression starts to take hold, I become highly irritabile too easy, too often and I tend to want to retreat (to my bed). Holidays usually brought on this scenario for me and I felt dread at the upcoming holiday gatherings. Then, I learned I could choose to “not” attend and tell friends and family that I was simply not up to it.
Several years in a row when my coping skills were no match for my depression and anxiety, I stayed home. I avoided many Thanksgivings’, Christmas’, whatever “it” was. When I stayed home, in my safe place I would experience mixed emotions: 1) I would feel happy that I was not under so much stress and 2) recognized I had made a choice and that choice often left me feeling a little sorry for myself, that I was at home all alone. I know that sounds a little crazy, like both sides of a coin. But, it is what it is.
Now I take a slightly different approach yet, still effective in managing stress that tends to accompany my sense of obligation. I tell myself that I can always LEAVE. To show up and bear as much as I can until I am done, then say my goodbyes (even if it is before a meal, or whatever). Knowing I have this OUT, seems to remove a lot pressure. There are times that I leave and other times when I stay. I monitor how I am feeling during the event and if I notice I am feeling upset, angry, hurt, ignored, worried, etc. I can take an action to try to change it and if that doesn’t work, I can leave and go where I am comfortable (for me, this is home).
As I’ve grown older I realize that the Time spent with loved ones’ is more important than almost anything. I spend time, when I feel I am able to. Now I know they wont always be there to go and visit.