Richard and I just indulged in our early December tradition – we watched our favorite Christmas movie, "Scrooge!." the musical starring Albert Finney, which kick-starts our holiday spirit every year.
No matter what you observe: Ramadan, Kwaanza, Chanukah, Solstice or Christmas, this is a celebratory time of year. For some it's a joy, for others a nightmare, and pressure to spend too much, eat too much, and socialize in ways you don't like. If your Holiday expectations are out of line with what you can really accomplish, you'll be stressed.
Holidays can be the best of times and the worst of times. Holiday rituals, thoughtfully done, can be a source of bonding and strength. To de-stress the holidays, get intentional about them. Happier holidays require three things:
1. Lighten up on expectations.
2. Ask for help.
3. Understand what other people are thinking.
To lighten up expectations, understand that this is your real life, not a picture-book experience. Family or friends may squabble, food may not turn out perfect, and gifts may not go over as well as people hope. A sense of humor will help lighten up the whole thing. Think of yourself as a holiday trouble-shooter, rather than a designer of perfect scenarios. Find out what's really important to yourself, your guests and your family, and pare your celebration down to the important things. Focus less on spending money or decorating, and more on spending time with those you love.
Ask for help by getting other people engaged in the happenings, and sharing the work. You'll find that a lot of camaraderie comes out of working together, and a lot of the holiday fun will happen behind the scenes as you work with others to get ready. Your family and friends will feel more a part of the celebration if they actually create part of it.
Understand what people are thinking by talking of events in advance with your spouse, your children, or other members of your family and friends. Ask them what they like most, and least, and what they hope will happen. If you know the "hidden agendas" you'll be less surprised when they show up.
Once you’ve made your holiday easier and less stressful, you have room to add more meaning.
- Encourage family members to talk about what's meaningful to them, or their favorite holiday memories. If your holiday is Christmas, for example: Invite each person at your celebration to choose or bring favorite ornament for the tree, and ask them to tell why it's meaningful to them.
- Spend a moment after Christmas dinner asking the oldest member present to share his or her memories of Christmas past.
- Gather around the tree and read a favorite Christmas story. Or, read a few pages of a longer work, like Dickens A Christmas Carol, or O. Henry’s “Gift of the Magi” aloud every night leading up to Christmas. (Adapted from It Ends With You)
Whatever you are celebrating this time of year, I wish for you a season full of love and warmth. Tina Tessina, Ph.D., has been a licensed California psychotherapist for more than 30 years. She has authored more than 11 books, including "Money, Sex and Kids"; “The Commuter Marriage: Keeping your Relationship Close While you’re Far Apart”; "How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free"; "The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again"; and, “It Ends with You: Grow Up and Grow Out of Dysfunction.” Tina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.