DEAR HARRIETTE: As the holidays approach, I find myself feeling more and more stressed out because I am thinking I would like to be alone this holiday season. My anxiety comes from the endless questions about my personal life. Who am I dating? When am I getting married? In times past, I have put on a happy face and given a witty answer. However, I do not feel like doing that this year. I am considering boycotting family gatherings all together. What should I do? -- Hermit for the Holidays, Memphis, Tennessee
DEAR HERMIT FOR THE HOLIDAYS: I want you to take a step back, take a deep breath and then take a look at your life. You mention questions that are uncomfortable for you to discuss with your family. While it makes sense that you should not have to feel like you are being grilled about your life with them, it sounds like you are feeling uncomfortable about your current circumstances. What's important, therefore, is for you to do a self-assessment and figure out which areas of your life are fulfilling and which are not.
Are you dating and/or do you want to date? Do you want to get married, or are you comfortable being single? When you feel established in acceptance of whatever your state is at the time, it becomes easier for you to handle other people's questions. You can also divert conversations to the topics you want to discuss. You can directly tell people that you are happy to discuss work, your home, your hobbies -- whatever makes you feel at ease -- but that your personal life is off-limits.
You may want to consider establishing clear boundaries and even possibly inviting a friend to join you rather than staying away. Becoming a hermit could easily fuel uneasy feelings within you.