Norman Rockwell didn’t have the picture quite right. Does any family actually look like this, especially in December? The holiday season is packed full of high expectations. And Andy Williams’ Christmas hit, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” makes it impossible to not be disappointed.
The holidays can be stressful and chaotic – making your home look festive, not sure about what gifts to buy, the hassle of traveling to visit family, all the cooking and baking. Here are some common sense tips – why don’t you see if they can help:
Lower your expectations. The added pressures and demands on your time often result in overload. When you’re hosting, reduce stress by letting go of what’s beyond your control. Readily accept when others offer to bring a dish or help clean up. Enjoy the experience and the humanness of everyone present. And be transparent. If money is tight, draw names and buy gifts for one family member instead of everyone. Consider handmade presents like baked goods and photo albums. Or give the gift of time with coupons to babysit on date night or help grandma clean her attic. Focus on the parts that are important and your ‘good enough’ holiday may turn out just fine.
Put family in perspective. Media images of the holidays are often exaggerated and, before you know it, you’re conforming to unrealistic ideals. Just remember that no family is perfect. Anticipate that there may be critical comments, some drama, intrusive relatives or insensitive questions. Don’t take anything personal. If there is pain and suffering, be compassionate and honor it. Set the tone by doing your best to accept your family for who they are – likely imperfect and sometimes times annoying – but family nonetheless. Point out their positive qualities and let them know why you’re grateful they’re a part of your life. See what happens, you might be surprised.
Stay in the moment. The media’s anticipation of this season can impact your ability to be in the present because you’re looking into some idealized future. The holiday spirit takes on distorted meaning and makes you feel as if you’ve come up short. Being mindful of this dynamic can help you manage your holiday emotions. Work on being okay with who you are. Have an open mind and an accepting heart. Acknowledge your blessings, small or large. Give yourself the gift of calmness and create your own memories. You may find you’re able to let go and be far more in the moment because you have taken back the experience and made it your own.
In the midst of taking care of your family, pay attention to what you need. During the holiday season, while we all wish for peace on earth and in our families, don’t overlook the value of your own peace of mind. That makes a difference, holiday time or any time.