by Susan Gillpatrick
‘Tis the season to be jolly, right? Or not. You may have a house donned with decorations, but the jingle bells in your spirit have chimed out. If this holiday season has become more stressful than joyful, you may want to reevaluate your route to holiday happiness.
Here are four common hazards to holiday happiness and how to overcome them:
Purchase Pressures: Focus on the gift of your presence
A mile-long gift list and a shrinking wallet is one common holiday stressor that does not bring good cheer. This season is filled with purchasing pressures – from the items on the gift list to all of the expenses that go into the preparation, planning and recovery from holiday events and gatherings such as hostess gifts, luncheons with girlfriends, postage for cards and shipping, and bows, boxes and wrapping paper. However, the greatest gift you can give is yourself. Be fully present and attentive when spending time with friends and loved ones. Listening is a gift more valuable than something in a box. Savor each relationship and each moment. Engage in conversation to learn more about each other and from each other. Ask elder family members about past holidays that most captured the joy of the season for them.
Fatigued & Frazzled: Remember “No.” is a complete sentence
How many times have you said “yes,” “sure” or “no problem” to a request or invitation only to immediately regret your response? Perhaps you have already over committed your energy, time or money to parties or projects, even though you have little desire to participate? Learning to say no is a skill, and it is a key self-care habit that can ignite your confidence and free your inner strength – at Christmas time or anytime. Being fatigued, frazzled and frenzied is a sure way to zap any sense of holiday joy. Instead choose your commitments consciously, saying “Yes!” to only the invitations and requests you truly look forward to.
Sad Season: Give when grieving
This year you may just feel like hiding under the tree skirt and not participating in anything. It is simply a sad season. Perhaps you have been surrounded in sadness from the loss of a family member or job, or have barely survived a recent divorce. These common, yet tragic, life events may have left you feeling robbed of a happy holiday time. It is easy to wallow in our tough times, but we don’t have to look far to recognize and meet the needs of others. The greatest gift you can give is yourself, even when grieving. Volunteer. Donate. Give something of yourself to others. While the realities of your loss cannot be ignored, you will surely feel delight in each new day when your focus can shift from sadness to giving.
Family Friction: Differences don’t have to mean dysfunction
During the holidays there are many opportunities for family togetherness, and that’s usually a good thing. Many of us travel to visit family we don’t see very often. Spending time reconnecting and bonding with family is part of what makes the holiday season special. However, family time can cause stress and hurt feelings, especially when dealing with family dynamics that include power struggles, passive aggressiveness and a lack of understanding. These are very common problems – even in very loving families. Sometimes combining families can cause more dysfunction than delight. Try to accept family members as they are, even if they don’t live up to your expectations. Create meaningful moments by loosening expectations and being open to differences. If necessary, remember saying “no” to forced family “fun” is ok too.