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Harmonious Holidays, Part I (Managing People Zones)

Do you feel like the holidays have a life of their own and that you get bossed around by tradition, the relatives, the airlines, grocery store clerks, and your mother?

If your holidays are imperfect, I invite you to use the Harmonious Holiday worksheets I created to help you take back the holidays. This month find out how to manage the people zones. Next month, I’ll share tips and worksheets for managing stress and holiday chores so that one person doesn’t get stuck with all of them.

These days I do what I want to do for the holidays. But it wasn’t always this way [fade to the 70’s]. For the most part during the 70’s, my family annoyed me. I could only visit for a short time before I’d start getting irritable or quiet. So I scheduled 3 day holidays–two days traveling (one on each end) and one day interacting. It was an expensive way to connect for a really brief time.

I was sort of a hippie, and I thought my parents were not cool. I used to wear flannel shirts and jeans. Period. My mother urged me to take better care of my skin and dress up. Of course, I rolled my eyes and bemoaned the material culture I was forced to co-exist with when I came for family visits. I felt like the cartoon below – the left-hand side.

And as you can guess, 30 years later I long to spend Thanksgiving with my family, and I wish I’d taken better care of my skin.

Spending holiday time with family can be stressful. Have you noticed that you lapse back into your childhood self – and so does everybody else! In my family, it doesn’t take long before we’re talking too loud, correcting each other, and sitting in a clump in the living room.

My holiday mood used to swing something like this: I looked forward to the visit >> I got annoyed with the visit >> I couldn’t wait to leave >> I’d miss them when I got home. What a shame!

Reflecting on each visit while flying or driving back home, I often wished I’d spent more time talking one-on-one with my brother and sisters, taking a walk with my dad, and talking with my mom. I realized that I hadn’t really BEEN with my family. I’d just existed in that space and time – kind of holding my breath to keep from hurting someone’s feelings or from getting hurt. Looking back on these imperfect visits always made me feel a little sad and sentimental – you know, that close, not close feeling?

Then it hit me. I could design a holiday visit that would be 10 times more enjoyable and nurturing. I’ll let you in on one of my secrets. Here it is……ready?

I divide my people time into zones. I have me time, me and you time, and me and us time. It kind of looks like the pyramid below.

In the me zone, I pull away from the group to download stress, get centered, and check in with myself. I might take a walk, go to bed early and read a book, take a hot bath, or volunteer to run an errand.

In the me and you zone, I spend time with just one person. There’s nothing like intimate time with one other person. You can share more deeply and really connect. Because I don’t tend to do this naturally in a group setting, I need to pre-plan my people zones. To get good one-on-one time, I plan ahead to discuss an article or book with my mother, I plan ahead to take at least one walk with my Dad, I look for opportunities to peel one person away to run for groceries or some other errand, and I make a quick connection with my brother when we make transitions to another room or activity. With my niece and nephew, I color, play dolls, or play a game–whatever seems fun at the time.

Then for the me and us zone, I just enjoy the energy of the group. We laugh, tell stories, watch a movie, take a walk, or watch my niece and nephew demonstrate karate, ballet, or some other entertaining silliness.

If I ever feel I’m spending too much time in one of the zones (usually the me and us zone), I switch it up and go off by myself or with another person. Again, I have to plan this ahead and keep it in mind, or I end up going with the flow and not getting the most out of the visit.

You can plan for a more relaxing, rewarding holiday visit by planning ahead for these three people zones. Use my little worksheet to plan your strategy

Download Worksheet

Next month I’ll show you how to get other people to do the dishes and set the table!

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