I am pleased to say that after several decades on the planet I have learned some things about how to at least try and enjoy the holidays. The summation of what I have gleaned is this: Don’t do too much and set your expectations well ahead of time.
The “don’t do too much” is a little easier to expound upon so I will start there. We live in a society where busyness is a badge of honor. We believe that always having a lot to do proves we are motivated, successful and on top of things. But, that same drive that “gets the job done” holds the potential to wear us out—especially during the holiday season—if we don’t keep it in check.
I used to say yes to everything—every commitment thrown my way between October and January. Cookie exchanges, big turkey dinners, work parties, kid birthday parties, recitals, volunteer opportunities—there was a season where I never said no to any of these during this 3 months stretch. At first it sounded fun to have all of these things to do because let’s face it these are FUN commitments. However, halfway through December I would find myself exhausted and just wanting it all to be over.
Now, I carefully weigh every commitment during this season and I purposefully try to do less. I choose the most meaningful and important events to attend and I say no to the rest. It was not easy at first, and I often feel like I am going against the grain of society, but I never regret it. There is something beautiful about slowing down, leaning into the moment and simply not always rushing.
The second valuable thing I have learned about holidays is to set my expectations way ahead of time. I learned this from a friend of mine who has an adopted daughter. My friend has 5 kids total and loves holidays, togetherness, food and parties and especially Christmas. When she adopted her daughter—let’s call her Anna–several years ago, my friend expected that holidays would continue as they always had as overall fun, joyous and peaceful occasions. But, Anna was not used to large parties, togetherness and the general mayhem that my friend—a mother of 5—thrives on. Holidays became difficult as Anna would get overwhelmed and retreat to her room—refusing to come out for hours at a time as the house continued to bustle with family and friends celebrating.
My friend had to adjust her expectations from that point on of what holiday gatherings would look like. She had to talk with Anna about how she would like the holidays to go. And, my friend had to change her expectations of how holidays would be celebrated going forward. Nowadays, my friend shares my mantra of “not doing too much” and she goes into each holiday with set, realistic expectations of what may take place. She also makes mindful choices of how to celebrate the holidays based on the specific people closest to her in her life, including Anna.
So, my best advice as the holidays approach is to do less and set your expectations early. Only commit to what you think will still be meaningful twenty years from now. And spend some time realistically thinking about the people and situations you will invest in over the holidays and what expectations you have for these. Choose what you will commit to based on the emotional needs of you and those closest to you. And still hold the expectation that this could be your best holiday season yet.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, please don’t hesitate to call us. A trained and licensed psychotherapist is waiting to meet with you. Call Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment.