Why is it that the holidays get so stressful?
I believe it has to do with our expectations of how things should be. We see movies and advertisements. They are promoting a version of the holidays.
But that doesn’t have to be your expectation or reality.
I live Down Under. I grew up where the holidays are during the summer. Imagine what my life would be like if I couldn’t be happy unless I had a white Christmas with sleigh bells ringing.
What Is Important to You?
Spend some time meditating and journaling about what the Holidays really means to you.
How can it bring you joy instead of anxiety?
And come up with a list of items that you feel you must have for your best Holiday. Don’t think about bigger means better.
Lists are a wonderful thing for reducing stress. And put the important items on your calendar.
When you get invited or are tempted to schedule something, look at your calendar to see what you’ve already committed to. Then ask yourself if it’s important or just sounded like fun at the time.
When you come up with a list of essentials, it will be easier to achieve them. Then anything else is either gravy or easily released.
What “Traditions” Do You Want to Release?
There are so many traditions connected to the holidays including parties, presents, decorating, certain foods, cookie making, story telling, and more.
That reminds me of a silly joke. A woman’s parents came over to her house for dinner. Her father asked why she had the dish drainer over the turkey. The woman replied that it was the way her mom always did it. Her mom said, “But you don’t own a cat!”
Do you want to continue the tradition of going to see the Nutcracker even though everyone rolls their eyes?
What about a cookie exchange? Do you enjoy it or do you quietly toss the cookies afterwards?
Just because you always did something one way doesn’t mean you have to continue it.
You can figure out what you used to enjoy about the tradition, and find alternate ways of achieving the same thing.
Give the Gift of Freedom to Be
Gift giving can be lovely, and it can be very stressful. It can also be a financial burden.
Some families have set up a system where you only buy presents for the kids under 18. Others have a draw-from-a-hat system where you give a gift to the person whose name you drew.
And some families have expectations of lots of presents for everyone.
If you’re feeling stressed and anxious about gift giving, you can bet others are as well. There will always be those people who won’t feel happy unless they give and receive a present (or three).
And that’s OK. That’s what is important to them.
Gently feel out people to see if they want to release that tradition and create a new one like going out for a hike or play at the beach instead.
Coping With Other People’s Expectations of You
Have you ever been happy and comfortable and then a relative comes up and asks you a question making you feel like you’re 12 years old again?
Usually, it’s our interpretation of the question that raises the stress levels rather than realizing that the person asking may be nervous about making conversation and relying on an old standby.
I do know that there’s others out there that aren’t, shall we say, holding our best interests at heart. If you can learn to smile and ask, “How do you mean by that?” you may stop them in their tracks.
Last year, I wrote a blog on learning how to change the conversation. If you missed it, check it out.
Learning to Say “No”
One of the most important “adulting” skills we can learn is the ability to set boundaries.
If you don’t want to do something, it’s okay to say, “No, thank you.” You don’t have to give an excuse.
You will feel so much stronger the more you learn to say “No.” Remember, when you say “Yes” to something you don’t want to do, you’re really saying “No” to what you do want.
So ignite your soul, and say Yes to yourself.
Enlist the Help of Others
Family gatherings can get difficult. If you know that you’re going into a situation that’s going to be particularly uncomfortable, find someone who can rescue you.
It may be your sibling or a cousin, or a trusted aunt or uncle. They’ll understand what you’re going through without having to explain.
Create some kind of signal that you can use that will let the other person know to come over and pull you away to “see something…”
How to Let Go of Perfection
Do you love receiving holiday cards and newsletters but dread sending them out because you don’t think they’re good enough? Consider how happy other people are when they receive yours.
You don’t have to find the perfect card or write the perfect letter. Just be yourself, and that will be a wonderful gift.
Avoid the Trap of Overscheduling
When you fall into the trap of wanting to try to pack in as much fun as you can, you will burn yourself out. You’ll not be able to enjoy it.
A friend of mine scheduled 5 concerts in 6 weeks. She enjoyed the concerts, but by the end, she was pretty worn out. She didn’t enjoy the final concert as much as she would have had there been more time between the concerts.
So pick and choose your commitments. If you’re feeling excited at the time, you can always choose to do something else.
It’s important to take the time to rest as well and schedule some self-care like a massage or a walk outside. This will help you stay on top and thoroughly enjoy this Holiday season.
My Final Thoughts
Today is the perfect day to look at the Holidays with fresh eyes and a new perspective. You’re in control of your life, and you know how to be flexible and work with others when it comes to traditions.
The best present of all truly is time. So look for experiences over things. Consider going out to coffee or a special meal with the people you care about but never have enough time for and catch up.
Stay committed to your healthy habits when you go to parties. Not overdoing it will help keep you feeling fresh and cheerful. You can always offer to bring a dish.
It’s important to remember what the season is about, and what it means to you. How do you want to celebrate it? What will make it a special time of the year for you?
I believe that the warm feeling of love for all mankind should be held throughout the year, and not just for a few weeks.