Making the Best of the Holidays (All Year Long!)
Regardless of what holidays you celebrate, holidays can be a trying time. We often feel rushed, our calendars are stuffed, and we have to deal with people or situations that we are not looking forward to. Here are a few tips and processes to help you not only glide through the upcoming holidays but make all your holidays less stressful and more satisfying.
Choice or Obligation?
- First, take stock. Make some notes about the things you are doing over holidays and how do you feel about doing them. Include special events, dinners or other related activities.
Make a clear choice to do what you intend to do. When we participate in things or host events under obligation, we create more stress for ourselves and everyone else. There are things you may do that might not be your first choice or top priority, but, because of your values, you may choose to do them. For example, hosting your family or your team at work for a holiday dinner might not be your favorite way to spend your time. We can all do these things under obligation and feel like a martyr or victim. But, if you choose to do them because they help meet your long-range goals, such as the importance of family or teamwork, everyone wins. If you clearly do not want to do something, you can find ways to meet that need or obligation that are more fitting for you.
- Ask yourself and make a note, “What am I doing this holiday that is meaningful to me?”
Different aspects of a holiday have different meanings to each of us. It is important to discover what has meaning to you and create space and time for it. Some examples might include things like special music, rituals or food. For some it would be particular holiday traditions with family and/or friends. Make a note about what things give the upcoming holiday meaning to you.
- What are you doing to take care of yourself during this time? Create your self-care list.
During the fast-paced holidays, it is easy to forget yourself, to ignore your own needs. Create a list of things you need to be sure you make time for. Your list might include things like meditation, yoga or your workout, special dietary needs, rest, restricting your intake or being more mindful of sugar, alcohol or other substances, taking time alone and /or time with a special family member or friend.
- What are the potential land mines you need to avoid this holiday? What “sandpaper people” will you need to deal with? Make a few notes.
This can be a big one for many of us. Along with the people we want to see and enjoy being with there are often people who may not always be congenial. Below are some suggestions for dealing with difficult situations and/or people at any time, but especially during holidays.
- Know that anything anyone says is more about them than it is about you. Don’t take anything personally. And, don’t attempt to fix them.
- Be aware of your expectations. Often, we are expecting things of people they are not capable of or willing to deliver. If you find yourself frustrated, upset or hurt, check to see if this involves an unmet expectation. If so, take a look at where that expectation comes from, if it is realistic/practical and if it is worth the energy it takes to hold on to it.
- When you realize that things are not going well, take a breath, and ask yourself, “What’s the most important thing here?” Is it being right? Is it doing things the way they’ve always been done? Or, is it the relationship that’s most important? Is it that we want everyone to stay safe, feel a part of things and enjoy our time together?
- If someone is becoming loud and angry it’s important not to match their energy. Know that underneath anger is always a feeling of not being safe, a sense of not being acceptable or fear of being shamed or hurt. The angry energy is unconsciously intended to push the other person(s) away so they can stay safe and in control. Your best strategy is to first pause and take a breath. Slow your pace and lower your tone of voice. Have eye contact if appropriate and possible. You want to stay out of blame and shame so avoid the use of the words you, always and never. Instead, talk about your experience. “Right now, I’m having trouble with…” “When I hear that tone of voice, part of me shuts down.” “This is important (or you are important) to me and I really want to understand what’s happening here.” This calm approach almost always helps turn things around. You may need to take a break from the conversation and return to it after everyone is calmer.
I hope these simple guidelines will help you have more meaningful holidays. I find it very helpful to journal or make notes about these particular aspects so that you are prepared to be more present. With this comes less stress, greater satisfaction and truly Happy Holidays.
This article was written by Marti Glenn, Ph.D., Ryzio Clinical Director