It’s the holidaze! Days of wonder and joy, shopping for all of the perfect gifts for your perfect family and friends, enjoying awesome festivities, feeling and looking great, traveling with ease and having the best holiday with your family ever! Does that sound like your holiday experience? No?
It’s not the picture of a lot of people as they struggle with finances, loneliness, frustrating family members, and the oh so commercially advertised happiness and joy that seem elusive. I bring good tidings… there’s plenty of time to change what you can and make this holiday season work for you and yours no matter what!
Pre-plan everything. Leave nothing to chance unless you’re a very spontaneous and forgiving person. Don’t wait until the last-minute for anything.
Decide what you want. If you don’t know what you truly want, you’ll likely not get more than what you always expect and experience during the holidays. With a pen and a sheet of paper write down exactly what you want in every area of the holiday season Then, decide which ones are realistic and which are a set up for friction and disappointment.
Be realistic. Take control of your thoughts, beliefs and feelings during a very emotion-packed time of year. Don’t depend on commercials, TV shows and old movies, advertising and tradition to supply your “perfect holiday” picture of reality. What we want for our holidays and what we experience are sometimes miles apart. So, be realistic from the start. You know your family and friends by now, expecting them to be different is a sure way to trigger you to be stressed. Work with what is possible and enjoy it.
Figure out your finances. These economic times for many people are not easy. The average baby boomers portfolio has lost 30-40% of its value. Financial changes, loss of jobs or other reasons can bring daily stress into one’s life which is magnified during the holidays with such an over-emphasis on gift buying and spending. Decide how much you really can afford to spend before ending up at the cash register or clicking the pay button online. The #1 holiday stressor is finances, related to gift-buying and travel. Two keys to staying financially free during the holidays is 1) be realistic and 2) pay with cash. Going into plastic debt due by buying gifts to make people happy makes no sense. Make a realistic budget for yourself and stick to it, no matter how “cool” or “cute” or “gotta’ have it” something is.
Make a food budget for waistline happiness. Making a grocery shopping budget and menu for your home cooking is one good thing to do to stay realistic, but making a food “eating” budget it even more important. If you go to a lot of events, parties and family gatherings, it’s too easy to keep grazing on high calorie foods. This is not healthy for your body, mind or spirit. The holidays are not a license to overindulge. 99.99% of holiday foods can be purchased or made anytime of the year. Keep your eating patterns the same as always, and even better. Enjoy a little bit of the different and special “holiday” foods that you enjoy but enjoy the people and events that you’re around more.
Communicate. People really can’t read our minds. Ask for what you want and tell others “the plan” so that you don’t set them up for stress too. You may need to say “no” and “yes” to things that you otherwise just let happen. Be in charge of your thoughts and feelings by communicating your truth. You will still not get everything you want, but you’ll feel better that you did your part to communicate it. And, no, not everyone will like it!
Leave your expectations at the door. Enjoy each day “no matter what”. Something will go wrong, people will be inconsiderate, things won’t go as planned, and you will feel hurt or unacknowledged. Take charge of your thoughts and feelings. Let it go, forgive more quickly, and enjoy it all anyway. Change your mind more quickly about where you might blame others, creating more stress, to letting it go and releasing the struggle.
Dealing with loss. One of the top six reasons for holiday stress is the loss of a loved one, family or pet. The loss of a family member or very close friend or pet can leave a big void in the usual family gathering. Take the time to grieve, share good stories about the loved one, look at family albums or whatever you need to work through it to enjoy the holidays with those who are still around now.
Take time out. Take time to just “be” during the holiday season. Enjoy the weather and sunshine, snow or rain, holiday sounds and smells. Take naps and periods of quieting your mind in between the hustle and bustle that is this season. Invite others to “be” with you so that you create deeper social relationships as well as new positive memories.
Permission. Give yourself permission to start, stop, stay, leave or whatever you want to do or be when you want to or need to. Give yourself permission to “change your mind”, even about your own plans. This gives you the option to be more flexible and spontaneous when things, or you, change. You don’t have to “do it all.” If nothing will happen unless you set it up, then be okay with that too. Just don’t struggle with “what is” which causes you stress, no one else.