The holidays are upon us! Maybe that is a happy time , with lovely gatherings, meals, parties and joy. But maybe it means tension, anxiety, depression, even dread. Holidays often mean family gatherings, traditions you may or may not like, encounters with relatives you’re not interested in seeing, expensive travel, a sense of obligation to buy gifts, spend money you’d rather not, maybe even enduring events that feel atrocious.
How do you manage all of this – and still have a smile? Here are some keys you can use right away:
One – be honest with yourself and don’t blame or shame yourself for any of your feelings. Whatever you are feeling is grounded in some experience from your history that is causing the negative or positive reaction. Many families experience friction and fragmentation as children grow into adults, older adults grow less adaptable or tolerant, or people change and grow apart. It can feel very sad to experience a transition from what you remember in your youth to what presents itself as your family in your adulthood. Be compassionate and loving with yourself. Accept your feelings as your authentic experience. Your feelings do not have to make sense to anyone but you.
Two – Be like an investigative reporter before you commit to something. Find out who is coming to the gathering, where, when and how it is happening. Assess for your own happiness how much exposure you can handle at a time. It is perfectly all right for you to have limits for how much you can handle or want to try to.
Three– Say Yes when you mean it, and No when you need to. Don’t agree to stay at an event for hours if you know you will only be able to be pleasant for and hour or two – even half and hour! Make it a drop-by for a brief appearance if you know you can’t handle more. For whatever the reasons are that you will not feel happy or comfortable, you do not have to endure encounters that make you miserable.
Fourth – Set reasonable limits for yourself on how much you do, how much you spend, how much you eat, with whom you spend time. This is your life, your time, your happiness. Only you can know what are the ingredients that will add up to a more pleasant, even happier, memorable holiday season.
Five – Make your own “family.” If you don’t have the family you wish you had to spend holidays with, seek out others who are also on their own. Plan your own holiday celebration with your favorite foods, decorations, activities, and invite others whose company you enjoy. You are absolutely not the only one who isn’t going to be with a picture perfect family for the holidays.
Six – Give of yourself to others in need. The best way out of your own troubles or sorrow is to be of service to others. Give of yourself to others. Find local churches, shelters and community organizations that feed the hungry, clothe the homeless, gift children. It is remarkable to feel how meaningful your attention and energy can be to someone who has far less.
Seven – Practice gratitude. Find anything and everything in your life you have to be grateful for: health, friends, work, hobbies, finances, location, significant other, the Sun and the Moon, your own determination. Start your day with a list “Today I am grateful for” and find five things – no matter how big or small. What you see becomes more of what you see. When you find things to feel grateful for, more things will come into your life for which you will feel truly grateful!