Sometimes holidays and special anniversaries can be tricky. It’s frustrating to feel exhausted, financially strained, and stressed when what you want to feel is connected, loved, and the kind of family warmth that you see in the media but always seems to elude you.
If you’re ready to change what you can so that you can enjoy this holiday season, consider some of these 5 Tips:
Tip # 1. Remember What and Who Is Important
The holidays can be a whirlwind of activity and it’s easy to get swept away with (or guilted into) other people’s agendas. Before you commit to anything, remember what and who is most important to you and choose to spend your time accordingly. As the opportunities to participate in things come your way, check-in with yourself to see if the invitation is in alignment with what matters most before deciding how to respond. You can have a wonderful holiday season and still find a way to love all the crazy, quirky, or even dysfunctional people in your family. Be honest with yourself about your own energy and set limits accordingly. Changing what you “always do” might annoy some at first, but once the egg nog makes its way around a couple of dozen times their focus will be on other things.
Tip # 2. Create a Spending Plan
Include everything you can think of in your plan — groceries for baking, cards, stamps, events, travel, decorations, wrapping items and the gifts themselves. Also include gratuities for people who help you throughout the year as well as hostess gifts and teacher’s gifts, if appropriate. Carry your plan with you so that when you are tempted by the “Special Deal on 10 Gingerbread Tree Kits for the Next Hour Only”, you can decide if that purchase fits your plan, or if it is just another purchase of excess nothingness.
Tip # 3. Create Meaningful Rituals and Traditions
What existing family rituals and traditions mean the most to you? Are there any that ring hollow? Consider ditching those or replacing them with something that is a better fit. Invite your family members to share their thoughts and hopes for family traditions this year. And remember to include a moment or two to remember those who are no longer present to celebrate with you. My daughter, Grace, died shortly after her premature delivery some years ago. I had three sons after Grace was born, but no daughters. Every December I get all dressed up and go out to buy little girl gifts in her memory. I leave the gifts at my sons’ preschool. They haven’t attended that school for years and years, but the owner always has a family with a small daughter in need. This annual tradition helps mitigate the sadness I can still feel when I see other mothers enjoying holiday rituals with their daughters.
Tip # 4. Consider Making the Holidays a “Movable Feast”
Once you step into your adult life, it can be tricky to schedule time for everyone who expects your presence during the holiday season. This stress is multiplied if you have stepfamilies or in-laws who expect you to spend special days with them. There just isn’t enough leave or weekends to accommodate everyone. Instead of feeling exhausted and resentful at trying to please everyone, why not make Boxing Day or Valentine’s Day your new family holiday get together? Airfares will be lower then, you can take advantage of post-holiday sales, and you all have something to look forward to during the doldrums of January and February.
I know. I know. I can hear you tut tutting – “But Aunt Myrtle will never forgive us if we aren’t there and blah and blah and blah and blah.” Maybe. But at the end of the day, who’s responsible for your happiness? Aunt Myrtle? Or, you?
Tip # 5. Practice Gratitude and Appreciation for the Smallest of Things
Whatever holidays you celebrate, the spirit of gratitude and grace are always appropriate. Look for ways to highlight the smaller gifts of the season. Bring as much simplicity to the season as you can. Cocoa and a carol sing at home with friends can be just as meaningful as a 3-hour concert that requires making it through holiday crowds and traffic. Do you really need a fancy new frock or can you and a couple of girlfriends go “shopping” in each other’s closets? Make cookies with a child or with residents of your local nursing home. If mixing and measuring feel like too much work, buy the dough or cookies all ready to go and just add the decorations. Wrap your gifts in parcel or butcher paper but then use colorful markers and glitter to add decoration. And sign up to volunteer somewhere, but ask for a date in January or February. Charities need more help then. School yourself with this mantra, “Less is More.”
Above all, remember “To Thine Own Self Be True.” Pick one or two changes and put them in play this year. Next year you can iterate on what you tried. Love and service are needed all year long. Try not to put too much emphasis and pressure on yourself and your family to have a “meaningful” holiday season. Go with the flow when you can. And take good, good care of yourself and those you love.
One holiday season all too soon either you or they won’t be present anymore.
Love everyone (including yourself) with that in mind.
With Love & Grace,
Photo: Flickr, Juliana Coutinho