Holidays are here. How are they going for you this year? Will you end up stressed, tired, and both emotionally and financially overextended? Or will you end the holidays and start the new year joyful, rested, relaxed, fulfilled, and happy? Will you spend the holidays bemoaning the fact that you are single or that your relationship is not working, or that something else is not working; or will you use the holidays to improve the situations that bug you?
Here is my advice for a sweet, calm, nourishing holiday season:
1. It’s not going to be perfect
I’ve known people who can pull off the perfect holiday season and enjoy every minute of it. They give just the right gifts, always wrapped with precision. They throw just the right holiday dinners and cocktail parties, always looking just right. They mingle and celebrate and still have plenty of energy left for everything else in their lives.
If you are like this and are able to do any or all of the above happily, without causing you or your loved ones stress, congratulations.
I think most of us, however, try to live up to this image of perfection during the holiday season and either fail or end up miserable and stressed.
Why does our gift-giving list have to be huge? Why do we have to overextend ourselves emotionally and financially? Why do we have to rush, stay busy, and not enjoy the moment?
The answers are many. Some of us do this mad holiday scramble because we feel we have to. Others have to deal with real or imagined family expectations. Others feel this is the way it’s supposed to be, as if there is a certain image to live up to during the holidays.
If you want to feel differently this holiday season, if you want to create a different experience, act differently. Simply stop trying to make it perfect.
2. What to scratch off your "to-do" list
Reduce or eliminate your gift-giving list, and even your card-sending list. Depending on how much simplification your life needs right now, perhaps simply calling people is enough of a holiday greeting.
If you are going to give gifts, choose simple, meaningful, and thoughtful gifts: one great book, one thoughtfully selected scarf, or one special toy. It will be enough.
Simplify your entertaining list. Host an intimate pot-luck at your place, or celebrate in a restaurant so you don’t have to spend the whole evening running into and out of the kitchen.
If you are invited to countless events this season, be selective about which ones you choose to attend. It’s ok to cancel out of most events, or only go for a short time. Basically, eliminate stress in any way possible so that you have energy, time, and room to enjoy this time of the year.
3. Take time
It’s winter for many of us. It’s cold. If you are in the winter now, listen to your body. You may feel the need to draw in, to take time, to rest, to expend less energy. This is one reason the holiday season can be so very stressful—it goes against what our body and spirit naturally want this time of year. Many of us crave warmth and rest. So rest and take time—warm your body and soul in whatever way is good for you.
Think of this as the germination period for the next year. How do you want the next year to be and how are you going to make it happen? This is your time to gather energy.
4. Make peace with what you have
It is difficult at times to be happy when others have what we want and we are left wanting. It is difficult to watch couples in love when your relationship is not working well, or if you are single and don’t want to be. It is difficult to see others spend money if you have none or are struggling.
Yet making peace with how things are right now is one step toward having what you want in the future. Making peace with unfulfilled desires is not the same as giving up on your dream or surrendering to never having it fulfilled. It is simply a way of having peace now—one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. This is not the same as denial. Peace is acceptance, a fundamental way of embracing reality as it is right now. Peace frees you up to take action to cause different results in the future.
How do you make peace with not having what you want? Watch for anger, pain, or envy arising inside of you. Then talk to yourself. Say, "I do not have what I want yet, and I accept this condition for today." Say, "Yes, it hurts/makes me angry/makes me envious." Say, "I surrender to this moment right now and I choose peace over hurt/anger/envy. I trust I will ultimately have what I need and want."
5. Cultivate gratitude
Here is one of the more powerful tools in my arsenal for dealing with unhappiness. Our circumstances often cannot be changed quickly enough to satisfy us. Yet our attitude can be changed almost instantaneously—and can remain changed, which helps to change our circumstances over time.
This holiday season, work on gratitude for what you have—in relationships, in love, in material possessions, in family, in community, in things that nourish and sustain you. That gratitude will help you create what you want more easily and more quickly.
6. Be with people who love you
For those of us in relationships and with families, the advice is simple. If things are going well, nourish your relationships during this time so they may be even better in the coming year. If things are not going so well, this is the time to use the utmost care and gentleness to improve your relationships. There are many tools to do this. Talk, listen, forgive, surrender, get help, read, write, go to church or synagogue, etc.
For those who are single, and especially, for those with no community, this is the time to reach out to groups of like-minded people. If you could find a group of like-minded people, what would be the topic or idea or cause or hobby they would be gathered around? Would it be reading, or sports, or movies, or personal growth, or spirituality?
Whatever the topic maybe, find this group of people. And, as terrifying as it may be, go and be with them. You will be amazed at how welcoming they will be, especially at this time of the year.
Happy, peaceful holidays to you!
Your Love Coach,