As soon as autumn comes, people’s thoughts begin to shift to the holidays, and sometimes those thoughts are accompanied by difficult feelings such as depression, frustration, and anxiety. For some, the holidays conjure up unpleasant associations, such as the first event without Grandma there, or prickly family get-togethers. Then there are financial worries, the pressure to come up with gift ideas, dealing with school kids on vacation, to-do lists, and much more.
The goal is to feel joy, love, and peace so you can enjoy time off from work, and savor meaningful moments with your family and friends. After all, don’t you want to feel the season, and share it?
Here are simple and practical ways to make your holiday saner.
1. Get organized to feel more peace and less frantic.
Start by making a list of everything that needs to be done so you minimize the anxiety and the feeling that there’s just too much to do and not enough time. This might include card writing, party organizing, shopping, cooking, work deadlines, travel/lodging arrangements, and family/friend communications. Once you have things written down, you can make a big calendar and fit it all in. Get specific, designating time for each task, remembering to include quality time with loved ones. Also, list your projected expenses, set a realistic budget, and stick to it.
2. Use your mind to reduce anxiety and increase peace.
Keep your attention in the present. When you’re focused in the past or future, you’ll likely feel overwhelmed and rushed. Create a holiday mantra to remind yourself of what is true. Repeat “One thing at a time.Everything will be all right.” “Be here now.” If you do, you will definitely feel more calm and enjoy the present.
3. Practice acceptance to feel more love.
Give up your self-centered, critical, nagging, sarcastic, finger-pointing expectations and judgmental ways. Accept that people and situations are the way they are, not the way you want them to be. Repeat this phrase when going to a party, or participating in family holiday traditions. Refrain from being negative, pay attention to the good, and verbalize that.
4. Give appreciations and lend a hand to feel the love.
Express appreciations for thoughtful gestures, give praise, and practice random gifts of kindness. Remember that these behaviors go a long way to foster feelings of connection. Do things that demonstrate caring and sharing. Ask “How can I help?” or “What can I do?” and then comply without argument and with a smile on your face.
5. Remember gift-giving is about love.
When you start to get tangled up in buying anxiety, ask yourself, What can I do that will show my love for this person? What will make them feel happy? Perhaps it’s a month’s moratorium on sarcasm, setting aside time to just listen to your partner without interrupting, a hand-drawn card with a message, a personalized poem, or a list or short video with ten reasons you love this person.
6. Prioritize your “yeses.”
We can create real tangible joy by being true to ourselves, rather than go along because we “should” or that it’s expected. Often we go on auto-pilot at holiday time with party invitations–and then beat ourselves up for overeating and overindulging. Strive for balance. Don’t be afraid to speak up. See how saying “yes” really feels before you actually accept an invitation. Weigh the outlay of time and energy before agreeing to host or organize a house party, office party, book club party, or any other holiday event. Only agree if you really want to do it and have someone to help. Accomplishing this requires listening within to that still silent voice, and aligning your actions with your heart’s wisdom.
7. Be good to yourself.
Approach the holidays like an athlete in training. Pace yourself in terms of eating out and partying. Make sure you get lots of sleep. Make room for alone time to replenish your energy–even if it’s just a short walk around the block. Think about how bad you would feel come January 1 if you gained 7 pounds. This holiday season, do it differently–avoid regrets.
8. Don’t bury your emotions.
Handle your emotions physically and constructively. If you feel sadness, perhaps because this is the first year a loved one will not be in attendance, allow yourself a good cry. If you know you’ll feel angry at the antics of Uncle Jim, pound or stomp out the anger when you’re in a safe, private place. And if you feel freaked because you have too much to do, or you’re bringing someone new home with you, allow yourself to shake and shiver before knocking on the door.
9. Remember the “message.”
Whenever you find yourself feeling frantic, annoyed, or upset, remember the true meaning of the holidays. It can help to frequently repeat a “mantra” such as, “This time of year is about joy, love, and peace.”
Want to find out more about attitudes and reactions that may be curtailing your workplace relationships? Take a quick self-quiz here, and then try the coping strategies designed to address them.
Jude Bijou MA MFT is a respected psychotherapist, professional educator, and consultant. Her theory of Attitude Reconstruction® evolved over the course of more than 30 years as a licensed marriage and family therapist, and is the subject of her multi-award-winning book, Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life. Learn more at www.attitudereconstruction.com.
Photo credit: Bhernandez