by Angela Grace
The holidays tend to stir up a variety of emotions. For some, holidays are filled with joy, anticipation, and time with family and friends that is meaningful and memorable.
If your holidays are not filled with the above-mentioned joy, and you find yourself navigating through November and December feeling stressed, pressured, anxious, and depressed; employing holiday coping strategies might be in order. Let’s try a proactive approach to managing the holidays by striving to pre-determine the outcomes of the holidays.
Pre-determine the holidays? Yes, pre-determine the holidays. We can do this by deciding our mindset, being mindful, and intentionally creating joyful memories. These three actions allow you to be in the driver’s seat when it comes to participating in uncomfortable events you would rather not attend, or feeling pressured to buy presents you may not have the money to buy, or feeling compelled to bury your uncomfortableness in the punch bowl and dessert tray, only to regret it come January 1st.
Mindset: Your beliefs and approach toward the holidays play an important role in the joy or misery you’ll feel during this time. If you believe you’ll be miserable at a holiday event, you are right. If you think you’ll enjoy yourself, you are right. Only you control your attitude, and only you determine the outcome. Decide NOW what attitude you want to have for each event.
You may find yourself in difficult situations: Decide now how you will communicate with family members that aggravate you at Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner; decide now what attitude you will take to the mandatory holiday party at work; decide now what your responses will be when you feel pressured to do things you normally wouldn’t do.
Creating your holiday mindset is well worth the time spent. If you are participating in an event with a friend, spouse, or hot date (I’m a bit of a romantic during the winter months) discuss your mindset in advance with them, and make it clear that their support is appreciated.
Mindfulness: The concept of being mindful is trendy, but I’m hoping the trend will last a very long time. The word “mindful” is often associated with awareness, but I think that mindfulness goes one step further. When we are aware of our behavior, we are just that: conscious of our behavior. When we are mindful, we intentionally adjust our thoughts, words, and behaviors based on that awareness. Being mindful allows us to be more aligned with who we want to be.
Here are a few examples of mindfulness. Think about who you will be spending time with, and what you know about them. Did they suffer a loss this year? Did they lose their job? Was their child sick? Did their candidate lose? By thinking about others in advance, you can tailor your comments toward compassion. Those who experience your compassion will never forget your kindness.
A lighter example of mindfulness is determining—now—how much weight you are willing to gain over the holidays. A local hospital indicated in a newsletter that the average American gains 7 pounds over the holiday season. It is important to be mindful of stress eating, recognize depression eating, or avoidance eating (think of a buffet at a party you do not want to be at, so you eat to avoid people). By being mindful of what you eat, you will most likely not only feel better about yourself, but your body will thank you for not stressing it by eating foods it is unaccustomed to digesting.
Create Holiday Plans: What type of memories would you like to create this year? Who would you like to spend time with that will make your holidays special? Is there a town nearby that you really enjoy exploring, but have not experienced in the winter? What hobby have you neglected because our fast-paced world interrupts your best intentions?
Make specific plans. For example, if you simply say to yourself, ‘I’m deciding to have a good time’ it leaves too much to chance. It is more helpful to intentionally plan: “I’m going to intentionally seek out these two people to be with during the event because I like them, they don’t cause me stress, and there are some topics I can talk with them about.”
An example of an intentional joyful memory is, for the past several years, my wife writes nearly nonstop during the two weeks of Christmas and New Years. During the year, there is little time for her to be surrounded and loved by her characters, or hunkered down with her vibrant imagination for plot development. My very best Christmas memories, which I intentionally create, revolve around her two weeks of writing.
If you have not treated yourself to it yet, Women and Words have created an exceptional holiday treat called Hootenanny. I strongly encourage you to check this website for further details.
My wish for you is a mindset of joy, and mindful actions of kindness toward yourself and others, resulting in memories that last a lifetime.
Merry Christmas and Happiest of Holidays. I’ll see you in January,
Angela Grace MA, LLP, BCC