Cure for the Emotional Hangover – a timely Repost

Why re-invent the wheel?  This post is as pertinent today as it was two years ago when I wrote it – no improvements required. As we move into the holiday season this week, here is a gentle reminder of ways to care for yourself in the midst of family gatherings  Happy Holidays!

Whether your are just past the family event, about to go participate, or are anticipating for next year, here are some things that may help you avoid, or at least lessen,                               the Emotional Hangover.

Before you go . . .

1.  Have hopes, not expectations.  Expectations and hopes may appear interchangeable in the dictionary, but they are not the same psychologically.  Expectations have the scent of “this is how it’s going to be”; hopes have the more ethereal quality of possibility.  There is space for hopes to become more; expectations have a more concrete anticipation with confidence of fulfillment*.  Expectations hold a greater chance of not being met and leaving us with disappointment.

. . .while you are there . . .

2.  Drink plenty of water – at least as much water as you are drinking other items (coffee and alcohol dehydrate you – 1 for 1 is highly recommended).  Sometimes the 2nd glass of wine is better sipped afterwards on your own couch in the silence of your own home.

3.  If you start feeling irritable, consider the HALT rule:  Hungry Angry Lonely Tired.  This mantra is an old rule of thumb from Alcoholics Anonymous, but has implications for most of us.  Self-awareness is key:  if you find yourself irritable and out of sorts, run the above mantra.  Is anything from this list contributing to your irritability?  If you can determine what’s feeding the crankiness, you may be able to fix or at least lessen it.  Knowing what’s driving the irritation can help defuse it.  While you can’t let Aunt Martha have it verbally (much as you would like to and as much as she probably deserves it),  you can recognize that her rudeness was just Aunt Martha being her loathsome self – it wasn’t personal.  And she isn’t going to change just because you told her to.

4.  Enlist a ‘rescue buddy’.  Safety in numbers is key – have your beloved (who is not related to this group except through you) run interference for you.  Frequently a sibling or a cousin can make an excellent confederate if you are single or without a beloved at this event.  As allies, each of you can watch the other’s back from afar, be poised to intervene and able to extract one another from conversations when you see the secret ‘help me’ sign.  You may also need  an ‘I’m fine’ sign.

5.  Limit your stay – sometimes difficult if you are attending a ‘scripted’ event.  Decide how long you can stay and stick to it.  Give yourself permission to change your mind and stay if things are going better than anticipated (see also #1).   Also remember that it can be helpful to be “seen leaving the party” before Uncle Julius slyly refills everyone’s wineglass “to get them talking”.

. . . after you leave.

6.  Recognize that you may be exhausted when the event is over.   Plan some down time. Hopefully you will be suffering in your own home, in your own room at the hotel, or in your childhood bedroom with the door closed. Remember that most of these events frequently cause many participants to suffer from the Emotional Hangover, too – so in this, you are not alone.

7.  Be gentle with yourself – and your family.  There was likely nothing you could have done to prevent whatever happened.  This is bigger than you – let yourself off the hook.  Whatever psychosis is indigenous to your family, you can’t fix it – but you can arm yourself beforehand to have the best chance of some enjoyment of the event next time.

. . .Before ‘next time’ . . .

As with most ‘events’, planning is key.  If your experience didn’t go so well this time, a little planning next time might eliminate some of the beforehand ‘dread’ and the ‘hangover’ afterwards.  This little mantra may be helpful:  If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got.  Change, while challenging, may be worth the effort.

Oh, yes – about the cure?  Well, there is no cure – only prevention:  one part awareness and one part preparation, sprinkled liberally with lots and lots of understanding.


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Revenge of the Kitchen Girl

Throughout the last half of our 35 years together, Rick has referred to me as the Kitchen Girl.  He makes reference to my slaving away at preparing and cleaning up meals, of course.  He’s not a lot of help, but he is appreciative, which goes a long way to making my indentured status bearable.  He insists, however, on turning down the burner level if things get sizzling more than he can bear.  “What’s burning??”  This, of course, extends the time I have to be slaving away in the kitchen.  He needs as much management as the food prep.

We are living a ‘normal’ life in Wisconsin, which means there must be dinner every night. After 3 years on the 2nd shift, I had become quite accustomed to steamed veggies and an occasional salmon burger or Greek salad (all items he doesn’t like).  So this thinking about making dinner every night is challenging – not only to my brain and skill, but to the results.

Culinary disasters have been occurring on a too-regular basis – especially around the cooking of eggs.  Eggs?  Who screws up eggs?  Me!

I have told in other posts how I am not someone who enjoys cooking, but I try.  We had been married not quite a year when I tried a new recipe, confident it would be a hit because his cousin’s wife had shared it in a recipe exchange.  Stuffed Meat Balls.  Sounded great so I made it.  After eating half of the first one, he diplomatically asked what it was called and where I had learned to make this.  He renamed them Death Balls and asked that I never make them again*.

I believe only two more items got the “Death Balls” designation:  A fried egg-plant recipe and some no-bake Creme-de-Menthe Christmas cookie.  Oh yes, and then there was the marzipan.

At any rate, my tally of these DeathBall events has increased since we arrived in Madison: fake crab salad (there are no crabs in Wisconsin);  ‘sloppy pete’ pita sandwiches & Metro Market’s Organic turkey marinara (neither spicy enough to mask the gacky ground turkey with tomato sauce taste) and, my piece de resistance:  eggs with runny centers in both the hard boiled and fried eggs varieties (frankly, I think he turned the burner down).  All this in the last two months.

Rick has kept his humor, however, and he continues to mess with my burners (he has reason to do this, actually – another story for another time).  Last night, after the first bite of my most recent tragedy, he summoned his diplomacy , sharing his thoughts in such a humour manner that I willingly continue my role as the Kitchen Girl.  He called my culinary attempts Revenge of the Kitchen Girl**.

That, of course, also sounds like Star Wars.   I will redouble my efforts to redeem myself and hope that at some point, we can rename this Episode:  ‘RETURN of the Kitchen Girl’.

May the Force be with me.


*The Star Wars theme stuck – we had just seen The Empire Strikes Back in the theater.

**Rick asks that I inform readers that 1) Pumpkin Fluff occurred in Washington and should also be mentioned; and that 2)  I agree with his assessments of my disasters – and, I do.  I am an obedient if not reverent Kitchen Girl.

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Minimal Living: 3 Lessons

While we were moving, I tried to cook with minimal tools.  I had some success as I attempted to use up all the things in my pantry and in my refrigerator before we made the big trip east.

Surprisingly, I made one new recipe by buying one leek and adding it to ingredients I already had; and I was able to make a pan of pretty good chocolate chip cookies (it must be admitted that the sugar was rather old).  It is amazing what you can do without when you need to do so.  It gave me pause to consider how many things I have, as opposed to how many things I really need.

I thought I had downsized quite a bit when we moved out  to Washington state.  However, as I packed everything back up, I realized that while I had unloaded some things, I had on-boarded other things:  ultimately, more stuff.   Some items made sense at the time, and some items made no sense at all! For example, I purchased a number of clothing items that I ultimately didn’t wear because of weather differences between the Midwest and the Pacific Northwest;  some kitchen items to recipes and then Rick moved to second shift and I abandoned most of my cooking.  As I packed, wondered if I would actually use any of those things in our new Wisconsin home.

I’m not sure I yet understand the process for determining which things to keep.  I find I keep things because I know the disappointment of discovering that when I have given something away I need about two weeks later.  And then have to replace it. Thus my aversion to giving things away.

In the summer of 2001 Rick and I were able to take a cross-country trip on a borrowed Harley.  We were limited in what we could take in one backpack and the two saddlebags for the motorcycle.  It was a experience of minimalist vacationing for five days which was surprisingly wonderful!  I didn’t need to decide which pair of earrings I would wear each day because I only had one pair to choose from. So many decisions were removed from my purview with those limitations.  Lesson One:  Freedom is the absence of choice.

This axiom was true in the waning days of packing up in Everett.  As I packed many of my beloved items as well as many of my utilitarian items, I had lots less choices and much more enthusiasm for trying to make something work from a minimalist perspective such as mixing up chocolate chip cookies in the pot traditionally used to make popcorn and pasta.

On reflection, I think part of the reason I was so interested in getting new things in my home was that, for several years, our income had been somewhat limited.   To have the resources to spend on what I wanted was a nice pleasurable feeling; however, the additional income made it too easy to just buy something for the whim of buying it because I wanted it. Lesson Two:  It is better to want what you have, not have what you want.

This business of ownership and stewardship is such a human thing.  But, making the cookies in the popcorn pot reminded me that I can usually employ what I already have to make what I want.  Much like the delight I experienced on our minimalist vacation, I experienced much satisfaction in those cookies.  First, it was delight because I hadn’t baked cookies in about three years; and secondly, it was surprise because I was able to make those cookies in spite of having limited resources with which to do it.

Lesson Three:  Lessons will be repeated until learned.IMG_1871




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