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On the first of November, I walked into a store and heard Christmas music playing. I am a huge fan of the holiday, but I found myself feeling rushed and thinking, seriously, already? I have yet to come down from my Halloween sugar high. And I need a chance to clear the cobwebs from my porch! What is the hurry? Can we build up to this a little? It got me thinking about the commercialism and frenzy that can surround holidays.
Sometimes we can get lost in the trappings instead of focusing on what's important. Trust me when I say I get wanting things to be festive and special--for people to feel special. Decorating the house, searching for that just-right gift or creating a memorable gathering is something I really enjoy. But, it can also add a layer of stress, that if not kept in check, can overshadow the holiday and create the opposite result where people feel the burden, not the joy.
“Being mindful will help us understand our motives and expectations and help us make our time together that much more special.”
This year the winter holidays are most likely going to be different. There may be limits to what we can do, where we can go and how many we can host. Maybe it’s a great time to hit the pause button and evaluate what we are doing and why. Being mindful will help us understand our motives and expectations and help us make our time together that much more special.
Here are a few suggestions that may help.
- Talk about the holidays you celebrate. Discuss why you celebrate (“because it’s fun” is still a great answer). Does the “why” resonate with you? If you’re doing it out of obligation or with no real connection it might be time to rethink your efforts. Should you dive in or simply dip into the celebration? Is there something you would prefer to do instead that will create happier memories and a more fulfilling experience?
- Create a list of your family traditions. Identify which you love and which you only do because you’ve always done them. Is there some wiggle room for paring down? Your holidays may have religious rituals you must observe. If you are devout this is generally not problematic, but for those who are not it can be stressful. Learning more about the history of the rituals may create a deeper understanding of their significance, a more profound appreciation and a focal point for the holiday. If you’re not religious it can provide insight into why people hold them so dear. Either way, it’s a win-win.
- Set realistic expectations for yourself and OF others. Doing so requires a knowledge and acceptance of your limits and the limits of others. It also helps you form boundaries and gain understanding. Boundaries will help you create a roadmap or game plan so you can stay grounded in your beliefs. Understanding helps you avoid the pitfalls of guilt or disappointment because you recognize that others show up for holidays in different ways. Stress often comes from lack of time, lack of creativity, lack of understanding, spending too much money, having perfectionistic tendencies, pleasing others or wanting others to put more effort into the occasion than they generally do. Determining what makes sense for you and your family in terms of parameters for your time, money, energy and emotional resources can alleviate some of the pressure that comes with wanting the PERFECT holiday. Besides, there is no such thing as perfection. And what makes an occasion great for you doesn’t have to match what makes it great for others.
- Go for it. Regardless of how you do holidays, just embrace it. If you love the frenzy, own it! If you want to simplify, do it. Communicating with those you typically spend special occasions with can help them understand where you are coming from and help them to accept that we don’t always need to meet at the same level.
The holidays are an opportunity for us to celebrate meaningful parts of our heritage, spend time with those we love, create memories, and spread joy. How we do that is a very personal choice. What makes it meaningful is, too.
When we are mindful of our planning and of our expectations, we give ourselves a better opportunity for richer and more satisfying experiences. That mindfulness gives us an understanding of our "why" and allows us to be more convicted in our "what." I believe that frees us up to shed what’s not important and truly engage in the gift of giving…and receiving.
Be kind to yourselves and others.
Until next time,