2017-12-07 / Opinions

Guest VIEWpoint

Holidays are a time for family
Submitted Ruth Schwendinger
by BA, Prevention Specialist, Huron Behavioral Health

Ruth Schwendinger Ruth Schwendinger The holidays are traditionally a time people focus on family. In today’s culture, however, many of us are without much family due to physical or emotional distance. That is where I find myself today and I know I’m not the only one, so I’m going to suggest something radical: Extend an invitation to someone who isn’t family to join you around the table this month.

There are two basic ways we can go about doing this, and they are polar opposites with equally opposite effects. If you approach the invitation with pride: “I have so much to offer(!), won’t they be impressed(?)” - you automatically set yourself up for failure. You increase your stress level when preparing because everything must be perfect. If your guests don’t fully appreciate your extra effort or do not reciprocate, that will lead to further disappointment and may sour the relationship.

The second way to approach the invitation is with humility. If you recognize a need for socialization and “family” in your life, you will realize it is not a need you yourself can meet. Connecting with other people in real time enhances your understanding of the world, builds empathy, and broadens your horizons. Don’t go to great lengths to make it a special meal. If the food, environment, and entertainment are what you typically enjoy - then share that with your guests. It will help maintain your comfort level and when you are relaxed, your guests can relax. Be yourself, that way you don’t put on airs the next time you see one another.

My years studying and working in mental health have led me to believe we should focus more on rebuilding relationships, creating a family-like atmosphere. Feeling connected to at least one caring adult is a protective factor for nearly every mental and social ailment. More people are looking to fill this void of love and acceptance, with unhealthy things, which lead to eating disorders, sexual deviance and substance use. Anytime we trade a wholesome repast with a drive-thru farce, we lower the bar and teach our bodies and brains to accept a lower quality of life.

So, join me in being intentional this month about building a genuine family relationship around the table. Invite someone over and be yourself while sharing a wholesome meal and conversation. It will strengthen your overall health and theirs as well.

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