Ah, the holidays are upon us. Or should I say the holi-daze…
With the often fast paced shopping experience, cooking up a storm in the kitchen, and putting out the Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving is even over, it can be easy to feel the holiday stress…that imperceptible sense of hurriedness that seems to permeate the air. The feeling of working extra hours just to make sure you have extra gifts for the kids under the tree. Studying and trying out that new recipe so you don’t look a fool at your holiday gathering. Or insert whatever other activity is occurring in your life and taking up extra mental and emotional space in your head.
So how does one go about taking a moment and soaking the holiday cheer in, instead of feeling overwhelmed and on edge, desperate to “make this year the best one ever”?! No need to induce all the added pressure on yourself…
The key here is NOT allowing yourself to take that stress on, and instead, be able to take a moment to step back and live in the moment. I have 7 tips for helping you through the holidaze because guess what? You deserve to create your own special memories this season whether in the kitchen with 20 family members or curled up on the couch with your dog. Everyone has the potential to have a happy holiday. So, please read on…
7 tips for helping you through the holidaze:
1. Stay in the present moment. Maybe you are experiencing the pressure to hang up Christmas lights, transform the inside of your home into a winter wonderland, and embark on the hunt to find that perfect gift for your loved one! Sometimes it can all become a little too much. You may start to feel you’re on autopilot—you go to Target for some early present shopping but next thing you know you’ve migrated to Pier 1 yet you’ve lost sight of why you’re even in that particular store…
If you find yourself starting to experience the stress of shopping, the feeling of being on auto-pilot, trying to “keep up with the Joneses”, it’s time to regroup. Whether you take a quick moment to practice deep breathing (three breaths in through nose, hold in for a moment, then release through mouth), or decide to take a walk around your neighborhood—practice living in the here and now and staying out of the hustle bustle. If you thrive on being amidst the hustle bustle—embrace it! However, if you find yourself feeling emotionally drained and stressed, practice mindfulness and staying in the here and now.
2. Realize that there is no right or wrong way to celebrate the holidays. We’ve all seen the movies, the TV programs that come on, the Facebook pictures of the “perfect Christmas”. If you’ve found that you are focusing too much on trying to recreate what you believe society defines as the perfect Christmas, stop! Whether you want to have Christmas brunch instead of Christmas ham, whether you want to go walk out on the beach with your family instead of sitting around a dining room table, make your holidays your own! If you find that you are falling into the comparison trap, it’s time to log out of social media for the day and instead–focus on who is in front of you.
3. Above all, realize that YOU ARE ENOUGH. In our world, people are celebrated on having excess “stuff” instead of developing memories and realizing that objects…things…don’t bring lasting happiness. Plenty of research has shown that experiences bring about a more permanent sense of fulfilment while tangible gadgets and “stuff” bring about fleeting moments of pleasure. Think about the two year old that basically receives all of Toys R Us and only focuses on playing with the boxes that the gifts came in…Just remember this season that YOU bring pleasure and happiness to others just by being you. If you don’t feel like you have the money to buy a gift, then show up with a good attitude and a helping hand.
4. Make lists. So maybe you have a large family to buy gifts for or maybe you’ve been assigned to bake cookies for the holiday meal. Organized mind=organized life! Make a list of what you need to purchase and by what date. If you are overwhelmed by purchasing presents for everyone, set a budget for each person and make a succinct list of what you plan to buy them (keeping in mind your budget)—that way when you do decide to go shopping, you stay on track and feel more in control. Same goes for purchasing your ingredients needed for preparing the holiday meal.
5. Embrace who you spend the special day with and where you are in life. This tip is similar to not falling into the comparison trap but I wanted to provide a bit more detail. So maybe you have strained relations with your family and will not be seeing them this year. Maybe you are single…again…and just feel sad that another holiday is passing you by and you don’t have a special someone to give that New Year’s kiss to.
In any case, if you are feeling down on your current life holiday status—it’s time to switch up your mindset. Instead of placing your focus on what you feel you do not have, focus on what you do have. Even if you perceive the only things you currently have to be necessities—housing, sheets on bed, clean water to drink—practice gratitude for having these items because they certainly didn’t just come out of thin air! If you are having to spend the holidays alone, then be thankful for…YOU! Think about past difficulties you have overcome and practice gratitude towards your self—focusing on developing even further inner strength.
6. Focus on your reasons for celebrating. Whether you are celebrating Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or are in the midst of the Advent season, ultimately—what are your reasons for celebrating these special times? If you do not practice a particular religion, what are your reasons for celebrating? Is it a time to focus on family and spend time with one another, or maybe it’s a time to share a meal together and develop tradition?
Developing and defining the reasons behind your celebration is key to keeping your focus where it should be and not allowing your stress to take over. Using the holidays as a teaching moment with the kids in the family, explaining traditions to them, and even reacquainting yourself with your belief system allows for a deeper look at why you celebrate. And definition always equates to clarity. Maintain perspective on why you celebrate.
7. Lastly, HAVE FUN! Most of the time, you will have the day off from work and school unless you work in a hospital or convenience store. Even then, focus on having fun! I have worked plenty a holiday in the hospital setting and we all knew that we would rather be at home with family, but instead of letting it get us down, I remember eating good food and enjoying the company of the other people who were there. If you are fortunate to have the day off, practice self care! After the kids receive their gifts, go sneak off and take a hot bath. Go grab a long run in.
Do something that brings you a bit of happy and fun! Remember that you are in charge of how you feel, no one else. If you’re dreading seeing those certain family members or family friends, then recognize this and set boundaries—go ahead and mentally decide how you will handle a tense moment. Even for the biggest Scrooge, the holiday season truly seems to pump a sort of magic in the air! Embrace the intangible magic of the season, be excited, and enjoy yourself— realizing that perfection is impossible and YOU ARE ENOUGH.
Tying it all together…
For many, holidays bring about a mixed bag of emotions. Dashed expectations, poor childhood memories, stress of making everything “just right” can certainly dampen the season. Practice these seven tips for surviving the holiday season and making it your own special day(s). As adults, we can recreate and turn around past negative holiday experiences, making the present holiday season a better experience for our kids, for ourselves, and for our spouses. Feel empowered and ready to take on this season.
Wishing you and yours a truly magical and happy holiday season,
Rachel Ann Dine
Humanitas Counseling and Consulting, LLC
816 Greenbrier Circle, Suite 209