Holidays mean different things to each of us. And for some of us, holidays can be both enjoyably life affirming, and stressful challenges. Obligatory office parties, gatherings with family members who appear to believe you are still 12 years old, and the chaos of meeting holiday-related organizing deadlines can put us in survival mode. Perfectionists and those who worry about the judgment of others have it especially tough.
Here are a few suggestions for thriving during the holiday season.
1. Pretend you are 6 years old and focus on what is important to a child. Kids don’t care if everything is perfect. They really just want to spend time with you and know they are loved. Research indicates that even the most materialistic of kids would trade receiving their most coveted toy for more interactive time with the adults around them. Isn’t this what holiday time is supposed to be about? Hanging out with others we want to see more of?
2. Put a budget limit on your expenses – and stick with it. Finances create considerable stress during holiday season. Get a handle on this, feel in control, and devise a plan for making it through the holidays without having to mortgage your house in January. This is particularly challenging for generous folks. The key here is to select a gift that is consistent with your budget, wrap it beautifully, and add to it with small, very inexpensive things like treats you have baked yourself. Don’t bake? Go to Costco.
3. Budget into your expense limit a bit of money for yourself. This way you won’t feel guilty when you buy that great new iPod for yourself (it was on sale) that you really intended to buy for your sister.
4. Ask gift-givers to purchase gift certificates for self-care for you. Then have your massage in January, your pedicure in February, and your facial in March. This stretches out your holiday warmth and helps you recovery from added holiday stresses.
5. Let go of expectations. The only perfect family holiday I have ever observed was in 1910 at the Walton’s homestead. (Don’t remember the show? Watch for the Christmas special.) Your family dynamics don’t make you miserable – you make yourself miserable by hanging onto what you want your family to be like. Not getting on with your brother? Pretend he is someone else’s brother and watch how quickly your frustration dissipates.
6. Delegate the tasks, and then DON’T do other people’s tasks. Again, this is tricky for those of us who are perfectionists, or just highly competent people. If everything is always being dropped in your lap, ask yourself, “How do I behave in ways which suggest to others that dumping things on me is ok?” Chances are, and here’s the bad news, you are giving people the impression that doing everything is ok. If you are competent in everything, how will the space be created for others to know that you need them? Fulfilling relationships requires giving and receiving.