Let’s agree that the pressure of this time of year can take away from the meaning of the season, replacing it with stress and anxiety. How I long for the good old days of my youth, where it was customary to wait until Black Friday to officially engage in holiday ciaos, um joy. That went the way of wearing white after Labor Day. How to survive, or better thrive? Try practicing being present during the holiday season.
Pressure to ‘do it all’
Many people find the holidays (looking at you Halloween) are a time of too many commitments. From Halloween parties at your children’s school, to office dress up events and friends’ weekend long masquerade parties to New Year’s Eve. Good luck finding a weekend that isn’t jam packed with commitments mid-October-January 2.
This time of year can be tricky for people who want to make the holiday extra special for those they love. Trying to do it all can lead to feeling as if you are on a treadmill trying to catch . . . what or whom exactly?
Go old school
Why not pick one event (one per person if you have school aged children) and commit to attending it and being present. Talk to the people you are with, enjoy the event and bring a real camera so you are not tempted to look at your phone or be otherwise distracted.
It’s not just for turkeys. My husband cooks a mean bird and I love to bake. I will be honest, some years it feels like all that time in the kitchen adds too much stress to my already full plate. It is okay to take a step back, breathe and order pre-made meals from the local store. Having guests? Assign everyone who is coming to eat a shared dish or two – most people want to help out and understand that few of us have double ovens or the bandwidth to cook for a small army of people.
It’s okay to set the expectations for family.
“Uncle Bob we want you to join us, please refrain from asking Ed and Jill when they are going to get married/have a baby/cut their hair. . . We wish for everyone to feel comfortable in our home.” Explaining to your guests (this goes double for small children) what to expect ahead of time minimizes their anxiety and your stress.
The best-laid plans
I learned to have a backup plan to my back up plan. When my children were little this would consist of a change of clothing (maybe three), favorite toys, extra food (especially if we were going out to eat), music, headphones, etc. As my children grew it meant checking in on their needs – holidays overlap with midterms and finals adding additional stress to teens and young adults’ home from college. Notify your host ahead of time that you want to come and will need to leave early due to study schedules, etc.
Try something new — Just say “No”
It is okay: If you are overwhelmed, your partner is feeling stressed and anxious or it feels like it is all too much. Take a deep breath, grab your most cozy cow slippers, a bottle of wine, your partner and exhale. Give yourself permission to enjoy the holidays in your own unique way, and at your speed. Deflect the pressure from what others think: rather, make the time meaningful for you, your partner and your family unit.
December Holidays’ true meaning is NOT gifts:
Really, look it up. It is hard for many people to believe but gift receiving is stressful for many people for a variety of reasons. A nice ‘gift’ for those inclined to do so might be 1:1 time with your loved one doing something they really enjoy. Knowing they have a date with you in March (a notorious lackluster month) can be fun as it provides something for them and you to look forward to.
Not everything went as you hoped or planned? Don’t worry; I have it on good authority the holidays will come again next year!