Ah, the Holidays!

There are so many things I love about the holidays. The sights…all the bright, twinkling lights and the colorful, festive decorations. The sounds…holiday music on practically every radio station and in every store you visit.  The smells…the overabundant scent of cinnamon, fresh baked cookies, pine trees, and peppermint.  The family gatherings…you know, when the whole family gets together, including that uncle or cousin you haven’t seen since this time last year.  The gift giving…there is nothing like seeing the joy and excitement in someone’s eyes when they open a gift you have lovingly purchased and wrapped just for them.  Even sending cards…that annual opportunity to say hello to not just family and close friends, but to some folks you may not talk to other than via this holiday card exchange.  There are just so many beautiful things about this time of the year!

But the holidays aren’t filled entirely with things that bring a smile to my face. All it takes is a trip to the local shopping mall this time of year and I am sure you can relate to that statement – people racing to take parking spots, cutting each other off, making rude and nasty comments to people who may be in their way…we’ve all seen it. This season presents us with such a dichotomous experience…a unique yet challenging combination of joy, love, and giving with stress, short tempers, and a general lack of patience and understanding.  On one hand we tend to express more kindness, particularly to strangers, during this time of year – it is a beautiful thing to witness.  Yet at the same time with all the things that need to be done above and beyond the normal daily routine things (you know, stuff like shopping, decorating, gift wrapping, cookie baking, holiday parties, gift exchanges, card sending, holiday meals, etc.) and all the people we are forced to interact with (think shopping mall and parking lot interactions especially), we can be easily stressed out causing our levels of patience and understanding to be virtually non-existent…in other words we tend to lose our temper more easily than normal, snap at people (those we know as well as those we do not know), and have some “Grinch” moments.  It almost seems impossible that all those opposing emotions and behaviors could cohabitate in one human being, but they do and we see it happen all the time…maybe we even experience it personally.

So what can we do to prevent that our inner Grinch from surfacing? I could offer numerous simple tips to help you navigate the emotional hail storm you may find yourself in as we work through the holiday season, but there is one main suggestion that I think will serve you best – let go of all the expectations you hold surrounding the things you do during the holiday season. The majority of our frustration, disappointment and anger in life comes from holding expectations that are not met.  So instead of going into a situation, be a shopping trip or a holiday get together, release the expectations you hold on others and/or the situation as a whole.  Rather, go into those events with an understanding of realistically what the situation will be like (as an example, I always marvel at the people who go out shopping on Black Friday and complain about the crowds and long lines…seriously?…it’s Black Friday…what were you expecting?).  So if you must have expectations, go into those situations with realistic expectations and don’t become so attached to the outcome…then decide to make the most of the opportunity, to have fun, to remember the true purpose of the event (purchasing gifts for loved ones, visiting with friends and family, etc.).  It will not be the same as last year…that is impossible so don’t expect it to be such.  Embrace this year as a new opportunity to make great memories and have a joyous time.

It may sound a bit cliché but it really is all about your expectations, your attitude, and your perspective. Only you can allow the holidays to rob you of the joy they have to offer. So release those unfair and unrealistic expectations, be in each moment just as it is and allow those moments to provide you with new opportunities and great joy.  So make the decision that this year is going to be a great holiday season and so it is!