We talk about how busy we are how much we have to do and how can we never get it all done. And, our lives set up just like that. Busy, hectic, overwhelming and exhausting. By the time the holidays hit we’re sick, grouchy, tired and feeling more relieved to have them over with than eager to celebrate. Bummer. Let’s do it differently.
I get that difficult family dynamics are more pronounced this time of year; that loneliness and depression are a real condition for many. I get that many experience more financial stress and physical ailments during the season. Hey, my life can be complicated too, if I focus all the hard stuff. Thing is, I don’t. Well, at least not often.
We make our experience harder more stressful than it has to be by how we think and behave. This December we can try another way and perhaps even have a good time this holiday season.
Here are some non-traditional ways to deal with the traditional holiday stress – and yes, they have even worked for me:
Look for what you want. It is true that we get what we give attention to. Focus on the stress, you’re going to feel it. But, what if you watched for the good things that go on around you instead of the bad. They are there too. Last week a stranger gave my friend a free turkey at the grocery store, I think about that good thing just about every day, as reminder of what is out there. My daughter’s desire to read Christmas books together every evening, has slowed us down and added fun to our family. Good things. A repair I had to make didn’t cost as much as expected. There’s another good thing. These things are out there, happening every day. Put a little energy into noticing the good stuff and you’ll see more of it come into your life.
Send silent blessings and compassion to the jerks in your life. Difficult people are going to show up in life and it seems like they appear more often in grocery checkout lines and on freeway ramps this time of year. But, live with greater compassion and two things happen: 1. You don’t become one of those jerks. 2. You feel happier even when they show up.
Next time someone speaks to you rudely, or cuts you off on the freeway, smile (if you can, even through gritted teeth – studies show our body chemistry changes for the good even when we fake a smile) and send a silent blessing. Usually, the people who are hardest to deal with need our compassion the most. And, when you can offer it even in a difficult time, you elevate your own experience and you’ll feel better too.
Tip: When you are frustrated with another or angry at a crazy relative think about the kind of person you want to be rather than the people they are. We tend to focus on the bad behavior of others. I’m suggesting you handle your own business first.
So, if your dad seems disrespectful and belligerent, or your crazy aunt drinks too much, instead of getting wrapped up in all their bad behavior, get wrapped up in all your good behavior. You can be kind, joyful, serene, even amid the difficulty. You can even be compassionate, calm and loving as you escort them to the door. How others behave technically has no bearing on how you act. Choose behavior then, that reflects your highest self, rather than their bad behavior.
Let loose of the things that no longer matter. It’s easy to get caught up in the expectations of others; to hold on to meaningless traditions because you think that they are important to somebody else, but this holiday season, get over it. Start by making a list of the traditions that no longer inspire you, talk to your family members and take their perspectives into account, then, either decide to let go of these traditions or adapt them in a way that will be more fun and meaningful.
One mother I know loathed the time, energy and clean-up it took to traipse to a tree farm, pick out the tree and haul the bugger back. She did it only because she thought her kids wanted to. But, when she talked it over with her family she discovered the kids’ favorite part of the tradition is the decorating. They didn’t love going to the farm either. So, now the family puts up a plastic tree, and they decorate it together. Everybody is happy and the mother is a whole lot less stressed.
It’s O.K. to let go of expectations and the traditions that are no longer working for you. When we release something that no longer fits, we leave room for other, more meaningful things to come in. That alone can help make the holidays special without the stress.
In Wednesday’s post, I’ll write about some quick and easy ways to practice self-care during these busy times.
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