Thursday, November 1, 2012

Keeping the Happy in your Holidays

Remember when you were a child and the holidays were pretty magical? It might have been your favorite part of the year, other than your birthday.

Too often, adults dread the turn of the calendar to November, with the extra workload of the holidays: cooking, shopping, meal planning, wrapping gifts, more demands on your time, extra expenses, decorating, cleaning, entertaining, thinking of brilliant gift ideas. It's enough to make one want to schedule a long nap to rest up!

It's time to take back your holidays. This article is geared to help you stage your own holiday makeover so that you can put the joy and meaning back into the season, and not go passively into all the regular routines without some careful checking in with yourself and the people who matter most to you.

It can be helpful to make a list of the holiday tasks you normally do, and consider what brings you the most joy. If you live alone, you can do this by yourself. If you live with family, you can have a meeting with the family to find out what means most to each person. What is each person's favorite part of each holiday? What can you cut out because the effort isn't worth it?

Try to delegate and find out who can do what task to help bring the holidays together. Could meals be made into shared events where each person contributes a dish? Could your son, daughter, grandson or granddaughter home from college help you with decorating and un-decorating? Could you bring food in? Could you make things more casual? Ask for help! Some of the joy is in putting the holiday together, not just showing up for it. Don't hog all the tasks for yourself, or you are likely to resent it (and your resentment will leak out).

Could you schedule some self-care into your holiday season? Perhaps you could schedule some breaks for you to exercise, get a massage, watch a favorite holiday movie, or do something else that restores you. If you have been losing weight and taking care of yourself, maybe you want to reconstruct your holiday menus to not create backward motion on your health goals. You can also increase non-food related holiday activities, like seeing a play or a concert together. Those peanut butter balls are not going to be easy to burn off after the holidays. If we get a little creative, spending time together doing active things can be a refreshing change from one holiday meal after another.

Think creatively about doing things in a new way that would fit your life now. This would be a good time to suggest drawing names for gifts in your family, rather than trying to find and fund gifts for every single person. It's not worth stressing yourself out, or incurring debt that could depress you in January when you get the bills. Perhaps you can make this a cash-only holiday season, and avoid charging on credit cards.

You might have to update your holiday plans given the changes that have occurred in the past year. I am working with people in counseling that have moved into a smaller home space this year, and have had to rethink having all the adult kids stay over. Maybe the adult kids can stay in a nearby hotel, and meet up for some part of each day with you if you are hosting.

If you have divorced, been through a break-up or death this year in your life, it's definitely time to revisit your take on the holidays. Give yourself the permission and authority to rewrite the regular traditions, or keep them the same depending on what feels most comforting to you.

Seek peace and acceptance with your family during the holiday season. Don't expect miracles. Try to lower your sensitivities to slights, be generous with your forgiveness, and realize it's not your job to judge other family members. Choose to wage tolerance and extend yourself if you can.

Cut where you like, but don't cut out the meaningful things. If faith is important to you, or volunteering in some way during the holidays to get some perspective, then schedule that in first. It could be that you want to extend your holiday season and make plans to see close friends before or after, rather than getting too stressed and tired.

Keeping your own energy level up is important. Try to get your rest, exercise, and not get overwhelmed. Try to set boundaries with negative, toxic, demanding, and unreasonable people. Pay special attention to pacing yourself. Take breaks from entertaining and hosting.

Take control, and make this your new, updated, and improved holiday season. You just might have a lot more fun, and bring back some of the magic. Lighten up, and go for the joy!

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