That’s the number of hits you get by googling ‘holiday stress’. What is it about the holiday season that turns dreams of a white Christmas into sweat-soaked nightmares?
In a word – EXPECTATIONS.
Anytime in our lives when we expect perfection we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. Stress is the distance between what we want and what we have. It is an unmet need.
Birthdays. Graduations. Anniversaries. Weddings. All are opportunities for us to hope for some life-altering perfect experience. If we don’t get our expectations in check before the big day we are often disappointed.
But those are – by and large – individual experiences. Imagine what would happen if almost everyone in your life had the same expectation of perfection at the same time?
Well… you’d end up with the month of December – the perfect coalescence of several major religious holidays and the culmination of a year’s worth of expectations for a perfect Christmas, Chanukah, Dwali, Kwanza etc…
That’s where the trouble begins. Unless you are immune to the wants and needs of others you quickly find yourself navigating the landmines of differing expectations of how to make the holiday season perfect.
You go to parties you don’t want to attend. You buy gifts you can’t afford. And you turn yourself inside out and backwards to avoid ruining anyone’s perfect holiday – except maybe your own.
And you do it with a smile. Cause you can’t let this tension put you in a bad mood lest you become the modern day Scrooge.
31,000,000 hits on Google. Does that surprise anyone?
Bad news. We can’t change it. And for the most part we shouldn’t want to. It is a wonderful time of year where everyone truly does want to put their best foot forward. We want the best for our loved ones and hope for a few magical moments for ourselves. When we have a hand in making a good holiday great we know it was worth it.
Now I certainly didn’t review all the articles on surviving the holidays but I did read enough to know that you’re expecting some tips in that regard. In true holiday spirit, I will do my best to meet your expectations. Just don’t think this will make anything perfect – except for moments here and there that doesn’t exist. But a great holiday is yours for the taking! And here are some tips to help you with that.
1. Accept. Try to take a Kabat-Zinn approach this year. Remember – wherever you go, there you are. Look around and enjoy it!
2. Talk. Come clean with the people in your life about what would make the holiday great for you and ask them what you can do to make theirs great.
3. Understand. You can’t always get what you want and you can’t always give that to others. But you can try to understand when that’s not possible.
4. Forgive. Whether you can understand what’s happening or not, forgive. And forgive yourself. The holidays won’t be perfect. We are not perfect. We do our best and when we fall short forgiveness goes a long way.
5. Smile. For real this time. Find something in the moment – no matter how crazy – that makes you smile. It is a glorious time of year. And those moments when we find ourselves and others in the holiday spirit make it all worthwhile.