The songs on the radio and television ads tell us that this is the most wonderful time of the year. We desperately want to believe that’s a fact, yet it can feel incredibly challenging to put it into action. The holiday season is supposed to be filled with comfort, joy, and peace on earth yet most folks grow increasingly stressed as we wind our way through Hanukkah, into Christmas and quickly towards a new year.
Because there is a metric ton of pressure to have a picture perfect holiday, and I believe that the pressures of social media fuel it. Yes, even in the midst of all the shutdowns and changes this year due to Covid.
No, I’m not waxing nostalgic over those holidays in the 90’s nor am I pretending that those holiday seasons didn’t raise my blood pressure or send me into panic attacks.
But back then, I was comparing myself to my own childhood, talking with friends, and expectations of my (then) husband.
Today, there’s the pressure for interesting Elf on the Shelf, home tours of impeccably decorated homes on blogs, Instagrammed holiday parties, and photos of perfect people with perfect families living fabulous lives on Facebook.
And that, my darling is the path to deep holiday blues and further away from a wonderful experience of any kind, especially during the holiday season.
I’ve been experimenting with managing the time period from Thanksgiving through the New Year differently and let me share what’s I’ve been doing that has me wanting to string more lights and sing my favorite carols as I go about the day.
Here are sixteen ways I’ve transformed my holidays from stressful to wonderful:
- Decide how you desire to feel. Consider all the official holidays and the days before and after – Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day – and jot down in your journal how you desire to feel on that day. Plan at least one action that will allow you to experience your desired feeling so that you can actually feel satisfied by experiencing it.
- Don’t forget the nourishing parts of your routines. The holidays pull us out of our schedules and disrupt our routines. Pick the most critical parts of your morning and evening routines and commit to keeping them no matter what the day brings or where you may be. Doing some spiritual reading and writing in the early mornings is a necessity for me as is spending some quality time with JB each evening.
- Put the phone down. I’m not carrying my smart phone around with me during the day. I plug the phone in to charge before dinner (facedown, on silent). I’ve even left the house on occasion without it. I also took all social media apps off my phone except Instagram so I’m not tempted to scroll through.
- Choose the one thing you most desire to do or experience during the holiday season and do it.
- Choose the one thing you least desire to do (feel obligated, should, etc) and don’t do it.
- Make the decision to not let people push your buttons. There’s always that one relative or acquaintance that gets under your skin, so before you will be spending time with them, make the choice to not to react to any irritations. Better yet, think about their best quality and look for that when you’re together.
- Don’t expect others to buy you the perfect gift. Choose one item you desire and buy it for yourself.
- Don’t go overboard on buying for others. You cannot buy love or happiness. Thoughtful, loving presents are great, but don’t go overboard or draw yourself into debt.
- Make the choice to be present. With yourself. With loved ones.
- Offer compassion to yourself and others. The holiday season triggers all kinds of ghosts of the past along with those desires to create a picture perfect holiday. Compassion never goes out of style.
- Do something nostalgic. Remembering childhood fondly allows us to bring good things from our past into the present. (Nostalgia can also help us heal old wounds.)
- Create your own holiday rituals. Don’t get tied up on repeating the exact rituals of your childhood; be willing to create your own rituals.
- Don’t try to create the perfect holiday.
- Don’t let food trip you up. Don’t stick to a diet. Don’t lock yourself into what you “always” have for Christmas or New Year’s. Create your own menu based around what you desire to eat this year.
- Make time to reflect and relax.
- Reduce your time on Social Media. Consider unplugging for whole days at a time. Consider unfollowing folks. No matter if people trigger you because they are too perfect or irritate you because they insist on posting about politics, just unfollow them. You can do that without unfriending them. Or…even unfriend them.
You can have the a truly wonderful holiday season. The kind of experiences you desire on your terms.