The Holidays. For some it’s a time of enjoying family time, making treats, eating treats, leisurely shopping and reflecting on the past year. I don’t know those people.
For the rest of us, this time of year is one of the most stressful. We suddenly feel as though we need to contact every friend, relative, co-worker, high school buddy, and coach we’ve ever had — as if there aren’t eleven other months of the year to do so. Each weekend, weekday, and afternoon is filled with parties, gingerbread house decorating, neighbor-gift delivering, shopping for the “perfect” gift, frantically shopping for the forgotten gift, while trying to squeeze in that elusive “down time” which becomes stressful in and of itself. Stop!
The marketers and accountants are happy to watch us push ourselves to the point of dropping because it helps their bottom line, but what about our bottom line? How does driving ourselves to the point of exhaustion and anger help satisfy any of our desires during this time?
Here are a few ideas for letting go of the Holiday madness and re-discovering the joy:
- Make a plan — Today December only has so many days. Before the month begins, or soon thereafter, sit down and map out your plan for the month. Which activities are important and which are those you attend solely out of obligation? If you have a partner or family, be sure to include them in the plan-making so everyone is on the same page and you’re not having to drag people all around either, building resentment and causing even more stress.
- Give yourself, and those around you, permission to say, “No.” Something about this time of year stirs feelings of wanting to be around people we love, or just around people period. However, as good as our intentions are, we can’t get together with everyone and it’s okay. Moreover, just because the Smiths don’t attend your neighborhood Christmas party doesn’t mean they don’t like you. It could easily mean they just couldn’t attend every party either. And that’s ok, you can plan another party in March when there seems to be plenty of time.
- Your table, presents, and home do not have to be Pinterest-fied. Everywhere I look there are great pictures of holiday cookies, kids’ crafts, tree decorations, mantle decorations, and handmade gifts. Ever since Martha Stewart came around, the pressure to have a certain Holiday “look” has intensified. Again, the marketers love it. I spent a Christmas outside the U.S. and that experience really helped put things in perspective. The holiday was much more centered around people and relationship than decorations and lights. Give yourself a break and the gift of spending time with those whom you love.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate Obviously I can’t emphasize this enough. Too often we have this “idea” in our head of what the Holidays are going to be like: We’ll go here, do this activity, and it will be ‘this’ fun. And we forget to talk to those around us about those expectations and then get frustrated when they don’t comply.
- Be present If you’re attending the Nutcracker with loved ones, actually be there — mind and heart — with them. Put your phone down, try not to think about your remaining to-do list, and instead enjoy the time spent together. Whatever you decide to do during this season, be mindful and participate intentionally. You’ll feel a greater sense of satisfaction and a more enjoyable holiday experience.