Tag Archives: Holidays

Oh The Holidays…

As the song The Twelve Pains of Christmas points out in its own humorous way, not everything about the holidays is merry and bright.  There are those things that we find to be stressful and frustrating.  And let’s face it, the holidays bring up many emotions – not all of the emotions are ones we enjoy experiencing, especially during a celebratory time like the holidays.

So how do we get through the holidays if our experience with them is filled with anxiety, anger, or angst?  How can you learn to be on the offensive and not the defensive?  How can you see the holidays as not just a challenging time, but also as an opportunity for growth, change, and healing?  How can you learn to be present in the moments such that you are grateful and enjoy yourself?

In general, being honest with yourself so you can clearly identify your triggers along with a willingness to see things differently are keys to a successful emotional shift.  Having a few tips and tricks up your sleeve when you head into those otherwise stressful holiday situations can also make all the difference.

  • If family togetherness is more than you care to handle, try these ideas:
  1. Prepare yourself before you go – in many cases the things that upset us the most with our family are things that happen every time we are together, so expect it and don’t hold on to it. Let it go as soon as it comes.
  2. See those family members who push your buttons through the eyes of love – remember they are doing the best they can given where they are on their own journey, and while that doesn’t always take away the sting of some of their comments it can help you release those things rather than hold on to them unnecessarily.
  3. Don’t take things personally, rather be filled with compassion – they may be struggling with their own feelings about the holidays or other things in their lives and as such may not be able to relate to others in a kind or loving way. Develop and use a mantra, such as “I am love, you are love”, to help you release those things when they happen.
  • Crowds not your thing? Try these tricks:
  1. Do some deep breathing or meditation before you head into a crowded place – get yourself to as calm and centered a state as possible before you enter the stressful situation.
  2. Have a strategy to do what you need to do in that crowded place and then leave – a little pre-planning is invaluable at times like this. Get in, do what you came there for, and get out – there’s no need to stay any longer than necessary as it will only add to the stress of the situation.
  3. Consider alternatives – do you have to go to that crowded place, or can you go somewhere else? Do you have to go at a specific time or can you go at a less crowded time? Consider all your options – don’t just do something because it is what you have always done or is what everyone else does.
  • If you get frustrated with that crazy, busy schedule created by all the holiday happenings you have to attend, then try these tips:
  1. Learn to say no when you can – it is tempting to say yes to all the holiday get togethers but your sanity is important too so consider not going to everything you get an invitation for. Maybe alternate your attendance each year between the events you really enjoy and let the hosts of those events know you appreciate the invitation and plan to come next year if invited.
  2. Set boundaries for yourself and stick to them – honor yourself and your loved ones with boundaries that give you the time you need for yourself as well as for holiday festivities
  3. Get creative – if you are one of those lucky people with multiple family members to visit on any given holiday, think of creative ways to bring everyone together in one place (like maybe your house) instead of running to 3 and 4 places. In many cases your other family members will appreciate the opportunity to not have to be the host all the time – it can be a win-win for everyone.
  • Feeling miserable because of too much food (sugary and otherwise) at the holidays? Try these suggestions:
  1. Re-set your portion size for the holiday – knowing there will be many tempting foods to partake in, consider rethinking portion sizes so even if you eat more things than you planned, by eating smaller portions you have a better chance of not actually increasing the overall volume of food you intake.
  2. Sample rather than eat – use the holidays as a time to try things, which means samples not full blown meals or portions. It’s okay to try things, but we want to try not to overdo it.
  3. Love yourself no matter what happens – practice forgiveness. It is okay if you had more than you wanted to have – it is a special time of the year. Recognize what happened, accept and love yourself, and let tomorrow be a new day.
  • If you struggle with the “keeping up with the Jones” syndrome and get stressed trying to outdo your family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues in the area of decorations, cookie making, gift giving, gift wrapping (you get the idea), then take a deep breath and consider these options:
  1. Let go of the need to compare – do what brings you joy, not what makes you the talk of the family, neighborhood, or office
  2. If you can’t let go of the competition, then give yourself permission to ask for help from friends or family to accomplish all these things you want to do-
  3. Consider how you can turn that competitive spirit into a positive force – think creatively about how to join forces with your “competitors” to do some amazing things for others this holiday season. Turn it into a little friendly competition that benefits others in the process.

Don’t dread the holidays – take them back on your own terms. Try some of these ideas and be open to enjoying your holidays a little more than maybe you have in the past. Make a few small changes in how you approach the holidays and who knows, you might actually have a happy holiday this year!

Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season!!

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!