When the holidays are over, do you somehow feel you “missed out?” You attend a host of parties and do a lot of this and that, but you still have that empty feeling because the activities you hoped to do just did not happen. This year do not let December happen TO you. Make it happen FOR you.
Start by asking, “What is my vision of the ideal holiday?” Make a list. Are you searching for the romantic stories we watch on Hallmark? Is it gathering your friends for a cookie swap? Maybe your ideal Christmas or Hanukkah activity is spending the day in your flannel pajamas, curled up on the couch, reading a book.
Ask yourself what will bring joy to you this season and what will make you sad if you do not accomplish. Unless you can define what you want, you will not be able to turn your dreams into a reality. Taking control of the holidays begins with your list, followed by planning and execution. Here is an example of my personal list.
Things I dream about for Christmas and things I will miss if they do not occur:
*Attend a theatre performance
*Celebrate Christmas Eve at church with my family
*Drive around and look at Christmas lights
*Dinner out with old friends
*Host a dinner party at home
*A day of service at a charitable organization
*Night with husband watching old Christmas cartoons
*Day of rest in my pajamas (a “do-nothing” day)
By writing down what is important, I find it easier to say no when things come up that are not a priority.
While you are brain storming, also ask yourself what causes anxiety during the holidays. Find your stressor points and figure out a way to control this. The holidays can be filled with tension due to gift buying, activities, and even the normal daily grind. There are ways around this, but you must first define what is causing you to feel frazzled. Spend a few minutes analyzing where your anxiety is coming from, then develop a plan to reduce or eliminate these items.
Are there certain people that cause you problems? If so, reduce your exposure to them or take a friend with you when you see that person. Healthy individuals know how to put boundaries around themselves for their own self-preservation.
Does your main pain point come from hosting the big family dinner? If so, delegate. My husband and I assign all responsibility for the side dishes to other guests. We provided the turkey, drinks, and a welcoming place to eat. Christmas Day is one of our least stressful activities because we divide up the work.
If an overtaxed schedule is what is causing your anxiety, do not accept every invitation. If you follow my blog, you have heard me say repeatedly it is perfectly acceptable to decline an invitation, even when your calendar is clear. Do not let others control you, you control you.
If you receive an invitation for an activity the week before Christmas, and you know that time is going to be busy, decline the invitation. Give yourself permission to take a break. This is one reason I calendar “stay in my pajamas all day.” I make an appointment with myself. There is nothing worse than feeling like you wasted a day, but if you planned to waste the day, then you are fulfilling your obligation and do not feel guilty. Protect your calendar. Enforce your boundaries.
Traditions are wonderful, but life brings constant change. Learn to be flexible. If you are too rigid, you will set yourself up for disappointment. Happiness in our circumstances is a choice, and the holidays are a perfect time to practice making happy choices. This can only happen, though, if you make plans for your realistic desires.
If you are in a season of life where the holidays bring sadness, then it is important to be intentional about what you expect to happen. If you have experienced a loss of any sort (death, divorce, even children leaving home), often the best alleviator of this pain is to find ways to serve others. When we step outside ourselves and focus on the pain of those around us, this can be the best healing agent. Invite another person over for a glass of wine. Play Secret Santa in your neighborhood. Call a local homeless shelter and ask what their needs are. A suffering world always needs help. Find your place and lend a hand.
Be intentional this holiday season and wake up this New Year’s Day with a heart filled with joy. Live with purpose, and make life happen for you!
Together with you,