From now until the end of the year, we’re in full tilt boogie mode, getting ready for Christmas and the rest of the holidays. For some people, that’s exciting. For others, dreadful.
Did you know that between November 1 and January 15 there are approximately 29 holidays observed by the world’s seven major religions? You may not celebrate Diwalli, the Hindu Festival of Lights, but chances are you have lots of celebrations to attend. Between family gatherings, kid’s programs, church services, company parties, and getting together with friends, there’s little time to prepare. It can be overwhelming! Especially when we expect things to be perfect and other people expect us to make that happen.
I love Christmas. For me, the preparation helps builds the anticipation. I still remember what it feels like, as a child, too excited to sleep, on what seems like the longest night of the year. Finally, when it was time to get up and see what was under the twinkling tree, being overwhelmed with feelings of curiosity, wonder and pure joy. It still seems magical.
As an adult, I started building my own traditions. That’s when that magical Christmas feeling changed. I added more and more expectations on myself, of what had to be done for Christmas to be Christmas. The season become less joyful and more stressful. The baking became a chore. Shopping for the “perfect” gift, too much pressure. Meeting friends and going to parties, more exhausting than exhilarating. Christmas had gone from my favorite holiday, to one I simply wanted to ignore and “get through.” The worst part about this – I did it to myself.
Of course, some of the hustle and bustle can’t be avoided. Crowds, lines and extra traffic are out of our control, making this time a perfect opportunity to practice patience. While we can’t influence the annoying things that happen, we can reframe how we think about them, and try to avoid letting them drive us crazy. For example, waiting in line is an ideal time to do some of the meditative breathing techniques we learn in the Finishing School for Modern Women’s Just Breathe class. Or, rather than staring into a phone screen, try people watching for a change. Seeing how other people have acted in lines, especially at the airport, has helped me realize how ludicrous it is to get worked up when waiting is inevitable.
More tips for a harmonious holiday:
Taking on too much – If you’re a workaholic like me, there seems little time to fit more into your busy schedule this time of year. As the “traditions” I set for myself grew, something had to give for Christmas to fun again. I had to take a serious look at the clash between what I wanted and expected, as well as what others wanted and expected. I had to learn to set some boundaries – for myself and others. Make a list of your holiday traditions, then go through the list and ask yourself, is this something you do because you think it has to be done or someone else thinks it has to be done? Determine can be cut. Determine what you want to add. Be intentional and mindful about making choices about what YOU really want.
Holiday office parties - Love them or hate them, holiday company parties are a must attend event. While companies may say they’re optional, are they really? The way you act at these parties may mean the difference between being promoted or passed over. These events are especially difficult when you aren’t feeling very social. Don’t assume you’re the only one that feels that way. Find one person to talk to at a time around the edges of the room, rather than awkward big group discussions. The most important thing to remember at these events is not to allow yourself to be “overserved.” The ghosts of past holiday party gossip resurfaces every year, especially when it’s really juicy. Don’t let it be about you.
House guests - Having house guests is stressful. We think we have to entertain them, cook full blown excellent meals or go out and spend money at restaurants. Hosting parties are a lot of work and stressful, whether people are staying overnight or not. Rather than taking it all on yourself, try taking turns preparing meals or have a potluck party. With advance notice, people love to show off and share their favorite recipes. Get help cleaning, cooking or anything else you can. Part of what I’m working on in my life right now, is asking for and accepting help. I’ll bet it’s as hard for you as it is for me.
Giving the perfect gift – Studies have shown that the person who really gets the emotional boost from the perfect gift, is the person giving it. Rather than worrying over the perfect gift, enjoy the memories and thoughts of the person it brings you, and let that be part of your present. Money always becomes an issue this time of year and the strain on finances is really no fun. Rather than spending money, get creative and give gifts of your time and talent. One of the best gifts I’ve received was going to lunch with a good friend. Spending time with her was better than any trinket she could have given me. Gift certificates to bring a friend to a Finishing School class is another excellent idea. (Hint. Hint.)
Family time – No matter how well your family gets along, someone is going to get on someone’s nerves. If you don’t get along with family, even the thought of going to a family event will make you dread the holiday. When we get together, we often revert to our old familial roles. As my surprisingly astute little brother said one Christmas, “Your family knows how to push your buttons, because they’re the ones that installed them.” Learning to remember who you are now, when the old scripts are being pulled out, will help you realize you don’t have to say the next line. Take breaks for some alone time. Taking a nap or a walk can help. Spending time doing a physical activity together, like bowling or a walk, helps too.
Take it a little easier on yourself this season. Swap your boogie for a slow dance. Give yourself a gift and spend a little time taking extra good care of yourself and have some fun. We can take back that exciting Christmas feeling and start new, simpler traditions. I think I’ll start with a festive holiday pedicure! Who’s with me?