In order to not only get through the holidays but to enjoy them, we need to focus on what we would like to have as our experience for the holidays. We can ask ourselves what are the most important aspects of this holiday? A “perfect” table and dinner? Having everyone together, enjoying board games, football, a holiday movie, and sharing stories while sipping hot chocolate?
Take care of yourself. Be sure to “mind your own health” at this time of year. Remember how important it is to exercise (even if you do 1/2 of your normal routine), drink water, eat consciously (save the desserts for the parties instead of for late night snacking) and breathe deeply.
Breathe mindfully, visualize people smiling and enjoying themselves, move your body and stretch, which helps you to “be flexible” (in mind and body). Play MUSIC to help you get into the “spirit” of the holiday. SOAK in a hot bath.
Make time for the cuddling and “hot chocolate” moments with kids and listening to music you love with family and friends. Each night before the holidays arrive, as you fall asleep, recount the things you are grateful for and spend time reflecting on each one. When we focus on gratitude (maybe write down what you are thankful for) you are training your brain to be more open to the positive in your life. This simple act helps to “tone down” the need for everything to be perfect. Expressing what you’re thankful for is an effective way to channel the good of the occasion or event and opens your mind to thinking in a healthy way. Noticing the good and focusing on what is going right can soften a harsh, critical perspective (only noticing the one thing that is out of place on what others all see as a beautiful table).
Whether you need to have the perfect decorations in your home, buy the perfect gifts, serve the perfect meal, host the perfect family party, or show off your perfect children, if taken too far, the desire for “holiday perfection” can be not only exhausting, but quite harmful to your mental and physical health. Having high standards is great; having excessively high standards that can never be met isn’t so great. To be sure, getting through the holidays can be a challenge. Lots to do while working against a clock that seems to be ticking faster than ever before. For many of us, we just pile on what needs to be done while still expecting to do everything else we normally do and for many of us, our plates are already spilling over. We somehow believe that we can do it all, whether selecting, buying and wrapping presents (sometimes for more people than we expected), decorating our homes, traveling to relatives, attending holiday parties, or planning a delicious and creative meal where we have considered everyone’s allergies!
The keys to get through the holidays include planning, flexibility, seeking and accepting help (even at the last minute), “lightening up” and seeing the humor in mostly everything. And when the unexpected happens (and it WILL happen) allowing yourself to be flexible. Understand that SOMEONE will be late, SOMEONE may have too much to drink, SOMEONE may be in a bad mood, SOMEONE will bring up a taboo subject, SOMEONE will disapprove of something, and YOUR ATTITUDE will determine whether or not everything will be okay if you are determined not to get yourself in a tizzy. Tell yourself that there may be lumps in the gravy, or not enough stuffing, or that someone isn’t going to like their gift, but that the whole idea of getting together is…to be together and make memories. So ask yourself, what are the memories you want to help make?
Consider what is really important to you. Is it being with family, decorating the house, cooking an amazing meal, socializing with friends? Be sure you choose activities that will most likely bring you and your family joy. Keep this as your priority when you set boundaries and prioritize so what you take on is reasonable and fits your desire.
Make a plan. You may be a person who really likes to have control. Feeling that you have some control helps you to feel calm so don’t expect yourself to forfeit that control…make a workable plan to get a handle on the many things that have to get done to help you get through and enjoy the holidays. You can only do so much! A goal is to not going overboard with too many commitments. You can always control your attitude and your reaction even if you cannot control what happens.
Recognize what you can manage. Figure out what you can and cannot manage. For example, when you attend a party that you are obliged to attend, try focusing on a new person or a few people who matter and explore or deepen those relationships instead of trying to “work” the entire room.
Keep your expectations reasonable. Don’t expect what you cannot deliver. If someone you cared for died, you WILL miss them at the holiday. If you don’t have the money you want, you will buy fewer or different presents. Keep your expectations in synch with your reality. If you have a realistic picture in your mind of what the holiday will be like you will feel more calm. Tell yourself: “I know I will miss not having Joe here this year.” “I know this year will not be about buying a lot of gifts.”
Manage commitments by delegating and sharing tasks. These tasks take up your time, so do them together with friends or family members (someone to help cook, pick up house guests, or set up a party). This can help you let go without feeling you are losing a sense of control. Just because you believe that everything has to be perfect doesn’t mean that is true! Usually there are one or two or more people among your family and friends who want to contribute in some way. So give them a job and let them help to reduce the pressure off you so you can spend more time socializing. When allowing friends and family to bring parts of the meal, or contribute in some way, you not only give yourself a break, you also give others a chance to feel a part of the celebration in meaningful ways.
When you are flexible in the way you do things, you give yourself a chance to learn to be more comfortable with minor imperfections and unexpected changes to your plans.