Now that Halloween is over, the holiday season is officially here! It’s a season filled with love and laughter, families coming together, people talking about things that matter –gratitude, family, traditions and spirituality.
But it’s also a time of year that is really stressful for a lot of people. There are office parties to attend, extra school celebrations for your kids, gifts to buy and travel arrangements to be made and it can be quite exhausting. It’s hard to know what to say “yes” to and what to say “no” to and it’s important to listen to your intuition and also to the loved ones around you.
Let me share a quick personal story to illustrate this point. The first year that my husband and I were married, we attended 6 holiday parties during the three weeks leading up to Christmas, plus several family events at Christmastime itself. For me, as an extrovert, I was in seventh heaven having fun with all my family, friends and colleagues. My poor introverted husband was such a good sport but somewhere around New Year’s, he turned to me and said “That craziness in December? Never again!” He told me that he would be glad to attend one holiday party per weekend the next December with me and then if I wanted to attend another soiree each weekend, I’d have to attend by myself. I had no idea that it was so difficult for him and was glad he spoke up and shared his experience and also set healthy limits for himself.
Here are a few tips to help you navigate the season with a little zest in your pumpkin pie instead of serving up a side order of Grinch! Setting goals and making a game plan for the holidays is an intentional act that doesn’t have to take a lot of time but can have really big results.
1. What can you cross off of your list right now? For example, if you hate writing holiday greetings and mailing out tons of cards, make up your mind to not do it this year. Just this once. Don’t send any at all! If this is a tradition you’ve done for years, it may feel a bit shocking to consider this option. But once you settle into it and realize all the extra time you’ll have, you may just feel a sense of freedom! (If you need help with this, read five good reasons to say “no” here).
- A gold star solution: Remember, you can cross something off the list this year just to try it on for size. If it doesn’t feel right or you simply needed a break from a well-loved tradition, you can always add it back in next year.
2. What can you plan ahead for? Is it really that you don’t enjoy shopping or is it that you don’t enjoy being among the last-minute masses at the mall the last few days before Christmas and end up buying stuff just for stuff’s sake and spending way too much money?
- A gold star solution: Pull out your calendar and create a plan.
1. Make a list of who to shop for.
2. Write in time to go shopping.
3. Create a budget (and stick to it!).
4. Take your list with you and cross each item off the list as you find teh perfect gifts for your loved ones!
3. Who do you need to have a conversation with to make a change? Let’s say you host Thanksgiving (or Christmas or New Year’s Eve) every year for your family and you get frustrated because you get stuck in the kitchen with the bulk of the preparation, cooking and cleaning. No wonder you dread it!
- A gold star solution: Talk to your family now. “You know _______ (honey, kids, parents, siblings), I’ve been thinking about our holiday plans and want to have a discussion with you about it. Let’s talk about what we like about our tradition and what, if anything, we might want to change.” If you open up some honest conversation, you may find that others are ready for something new. You may find that another family member wants to host at their house or someone else suggests “What if we all go out this year?” (They may secretly not want to come to your house every year but haven’t figured out a polite way to tell you – this gives them a chance!)
The key to really enjoying the holidays is to plan ahead, clarify your priorities and be honest with yourself about what delights you and what you dread. As we grow and evolve, our priorities change and our vision of an ideal holiday season shifts. Perhaps there’s a new baby in the family or a loved one has recently died or some relatives have moved making visiting more difficult. I know a lot of families with young children decide that they will stay home and no longer travel to be with relatives because they want their children to experience the magic of Christmas in their own homes. Be sure to take the pulse of each year and not assume that old traditions can’t be changed.
Lastly, honor the sacred time and space of the season and be sure to build self-care into the plan. During a hectic time of year, it’s amazing what a walk in the woods or a yoga class can do to restore your soul. After all, it is the holidays, and you want to celebrate and that starts with celebrating YOU!
Here’s to a joy-filled, stress-free holiday season for all!