The holidays are supposed to be a fun, relaxing time to connect with loved ones. A time of joy and ease. Isn’t that the whole spirit of the season? These days, more often than not, the holidays can be super stressful. Rather than relaxing around the tree with friends and family, we end up running from a kid’s Christmas concert to a work Christmas party, spending lots of money on piles of plastic the kids will play with for three days then forget all about, and dealing with frustrating family dynamics.
So how do we take back the spirit of the holidays?
- Plan your time intentionally. Say no to events you don’t want to go to, yes to events you want to go to and don’t try to pack it all in to a one week period. Your time is precious and this season can be full of obligations. That’s not the point. The point is to spend time with people you love so if it feels like an obligation, don’t go. If you really can’t get out of an invitation, take someone you love and enjoy the time with them. Focus on the people you enjoy and give less energy and attention to the people you find difficult. If you’re committed to being at an event, make the most out of it by finding a way to enjoy it.
Think about the events that make the season feel special to you and make time for them, which often means saying no to the events that feel like obligations (like maybe the work Christmas party).
In addition to going to events you really enjoy, make time to stay home and relax. We fill up our time so much when the days are slowing down. It’s dark and quiet and often cold outside, it’s an invitation to cosy up with those you love and enjoy the quiet.
2. Give people gifts of appreciation and experiences rather than stuff. Too often we do the mad dash last minute scramble and we buy meaningless gifts for people. If you’re going to buy someone something, buy a gift that shows that you know them. That feels far more meaningful than an expensive generic gift. For my birthday, a friend made me gluten free banana bread because she knows how much I love banana bread and how much I miss it because I’m sensitive to gluten. That gift made me feel loved and known and I know it took a lot of effort on her part. My husband and I give each other only experience gifts and we are easing our kids into it — they will still get the ninja turtles and the unicorn that they are desperate for, but they will also get a visit to the aquarium.
When friends or family have a significant birthday, I write a list of things I love about them that matches the year. For my Grandmother’s 90th, she got a jar of 90 things my family loved about her, for my husband’s 40th, I gave him a box with 40 pieces of paper, each one filled with something I love about him. In our family, at dinner, we each share one thing we are grateful for. Around Christmas, I make extra effort to express my specific appreciation to everyone in my life — my kids’ teachers, our babysitters, friends and family. A few well-thought out words on a card mean far more to most people than a box of chocolates.
4. Fill yourself with peace and joy. Then share your peace and joy with others. The holiday season is meant to be a time of peace, happiness and connection with others. Too often it becomes a time of stress and conflict. This can bring out the worst in us rather than the best. Make time to do what helps you feel relaxed and happy. When things get really busy we can stop doing the things that are good for us at a time we need them the most — don’t skip exercising or meditating or catching up with friends or whatever you do to unwind.
For me, a wintery walk and a quiet night lying on the couch looking at the lights on the Christmas tree relax me. When you are happy and relaxed, you’re better able to deal wih the inevitable stressors you’ll experience. You’ll have a different perspective and not get upset as easily.
Have you ever noticed that your energy is contagious? If you’re stressed out and on edge, that negatively impacts everyone you interact with. In contrast, when you’re happy and relaxed, you have a positive impact on others. The best gift we can give to anyone is being a source of calm in what can often be a tumultuous time.
I love Christmas, it’s a sweet and magical time with my kids and husband. I’m beyond grateful for my family and all that we have and I love the magic my kids bring to this time of year.
And I still have grief, it’s a time when if my mother was still alive, she would come and enjoy Christmas with our family. She never met my husband or my kids and I feel her loss more deeply during the holidays. So I take time to journal about it and have a good cry and I buy my family a box of her favourite chocolates. When I accept and express my grief, I can be really present. When I’m just trying to suppress the sadness, it tinges everything else. When I make space for my feelings, I can be fully myself — fully sad in my grief, fully happy in my blessings. What better gift can I give to those that I love than to be fully myself?
I hope these ideas are helpful to you in making the holiday season what it’s meant to be — a relaxing time to enjoy being with those we love. Happy holidays and see you in 2018!