2017 has flown by in my world. I can't believe we are just a few weeks away from Thanksgiving. As much as we love to talk about the joy that the holiday season brings, for many people the holidays can be a stressful time. You may be finding yourself feeling pressure to buy gifts you can't afford, spend time with family that you don't have the best relationships with, pretend your happy when maybe it's a tough time in your life, and attend events that you don't have time for. Here are 5 tips to help create a more joyful holiday season.
1.) Define your ideal holiday season- Have you ever taken a few minutes to really think about what it is you would like for the holiday season? Would you like to spend a quiet Christmas at home? Make time to go see lights? Take a trip over Christmas? Have a day to bake your grandmother's famous sugar cookies? Many times people forget to ask themselves what would make the holidays more special for themselves. Once you have your ideal holiday season written down, look at how you can incorporate some of those ideas into your schedule. It doesn't mean you don't take into consideration others, but you also make sure you are doing things you enjoy as well.
2.) Set realistic expectations- So many times we let our minds create this "perfect" scenario of what the holidays are going to be like. Unfortunately we tend to draw these ideas from TV shows, movies, and greeting cards. Be honest with yourself about your current situation, relationships with others, and mindset. By this I mean, if you don't get along with your mother-in-law before Christmas, your probably not going to wake up on Christmas suddenly best friends with her. So be honest with yourself, and make a plan for how to deal with challenging family situations. For example, having a plan to go for a walk if things get heated in the kitchen, or make a plan with your partner to not stay as long as your normally do for Christmas Dinner. Or it may be doing Christmas as usual, but planning a fun self-care day afterwards.
3.) Practice self-care- Self-care is important all year long, but especially during the holiday season. Self-care can mean different things for different people. Self-care may mean taking a day off from work to allow yourself time to shop or prepare for events. It may mean taking a hot bath at the end of a stressful day. It could mean saying no to certain events, or paying the extra money to have gifts wrapped at the store. The important thing is to have a self-care plan going into the holidays. What are you going to do to keep your energy up this year?
4.) Set boundaries, and don't be afraid to question things- Every family has traditions. Maybe in your family it is expected that you be at certain events, and do things a certain way. Maybe your family has tons of nieces and nephews that everybody is expected to buy gifts for. These traditions can be the very thing you are looking forward to, or the thing that causes you to lay awake at night dreading the weeks ahead. Take some time to think about what you can realistically do or not do this season. Are you on a budget? Talk with your family about drawing names for gifts, or set a limit on the gift amount. You may be surprised by your family's reaction. They may have been feeling just as stressed out as you. Also be honest about your availability. If you want to spend Christmas morning alone with your family, plan ahead to have a later lunch on Christmas with the extended family. Or plan the celebration a different day. The important thing is to communicate your needs, and be honest about what would make the season meaningful for you.
5.) Practice mindfulness- Make a promise to yourself to slow down this holiday season. I think sometimes we forget that we can't ever get these days back. What do you want to remember about the holiday season? Of course the holidays take planning, but make sure that you enjoy what you are planning for. If you find yourself thinking about the next event before the first event ends, try to redirect your mind back to the present. Focus on what is going on around you, the sights, sounds, and smells. Take time and enjoy the Christmas lights, the music, the conversation.
Finally, remember that everybody's experience of the holidays is different. For some the holidays is a reminder of what they don't have, or who they have lost in their live. Be understanding and compassionate of people that may not be as happy or excited about the season. Depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses don't take a break because of the holidays. So be understanding with yourself as well, if you find yourself sad or lonely. If you need help getting through the season, please reach out to us. We would be glad to sit down with you, and see how we can help you at this stage in your life. You can reach at (501)764-7988.