The Most Wonderful Time of The Year

The holidays are upon us once again.  They most certainly can be the most wonderful time of year, with the religious significance for many, the celebrations with family and friends, the fellowship, the opportunity to spread joy, and, of course, the fabulous food. 

So, why do they cause so many of us such stress?  And as we all know, stress is not healthy for the body or the brain. 

Let’s first establish that there are a significant percentage of readers who truly love every minute of the holiday season, and do not feel an iota of stress.  That is the way it should be. If you are in this group, then read no further, and try to model this behavior to others so they can emulate it.  I wish I was that way, but, alas, I am not.

For the rest of us, let’s try to figure out a better way. 

The advertisements would have us believe that the holidays are overflowing with blissful happiness, no matter what each of us experiences individually.   On the screen, it appears effortless to pull off a large gathering of family and/or friends with perfect place settings and lavish decorations. 

And the food!  It must just appear in those beautiful serving bowls, without anyone having lifted a finger.

That’s what the advertisers would like us to think, but we all know better.  Yet, we wonder why it’s not as easy as it appears to be. 

Worse than that, many of us somehow feel that this is the standard we must strive to live up to. If it is all over the media, then it must indeed be the way it should be, right?

Nope. 

Those images are indeed intended to promote holiday joy, but mostly with a price—the sticker price on their product.

Now that we have established that, take a step back, and think about what your perfect holiday images are.  Consider what makes you feel happy, not what the media, or anyone else says or feels.  Just you.

Perhaps it is less, not more.

Perhaps it consists of just one focal point, like one beautiful tree, or a nativity scene.  Maybe it is an outdoor light display. 

There are no wrong answers here, just what is right for you.

One important consideration must be kept at the forefront of your mind when determining what is right for you:  your loved ones.  Many of us have children—young, or grown, and they, along with other important people in your family and in your life must be considered when determining this.  Finding the balance between what is important to you, and what is important to them is the key, and that key is not an easy thing to find.

Taking the time to determine that should be the first step. 

When you have struck that balance, consider the externals: beyond the decorations, consider the menu:  what do you enjoy preparing and/or eating?  There are typically others’ preferences in this equation, but don’t deny your own input towards your favorites.  If you are not the one preparing the food, and you are asked, don’t be afraid to let them know.  Maybe it is homemade soup instead of a ham, or a lasagna instead of a turkey. 

Again, no wrong answers.

Now, the hard part: let’s talk about what troubles so many people deep down in this season of peace and joy.  This is supposed to be the time of the year to gather together and celebrate peace and joy, but some families do not possess that, so they cannot share or celebrate it. 

Our culture promotes the idea that magically, those differences should simply fade away for the holidays; that, at least, a truce can be called.

This is not always the case, as too many of us know.

Again, my hope is that this is pure bliss, or at least mostly peace and joy. If it is overwhelming, it is okay to make changes.  Letting go of, or changing some of those obligations can be a good thing:

  • Remember the media influence—decide what is perfect for you, not what the advertisers want you to buy.
  • Take some time to determine what your favorite part of the season is, whether it is the festivities, the increased efforts at goodwill toward others, or the spiritual aspect.  Direct most of your energies there.
  • If you do make noticeable changes, let your loved ones know it is to benefit you, not to work against them. 
  • If someone wants to treat you to a gift, and asks you what you want or need, don’t hesitate to suggest something.  You very likely deserve it.
  • Adopting a family or child from a social service agency is a good way to increase goodwill during the holidays.  Many of us have more to give than we may realize, and even a little bit can make a huge difference for another person or family. 
  • Be sure to practice good self-care year-round, but especially during the holidays.  Getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, eating moderate amounts of the right foods–as well as a few treats, exercising regularly and getting sunshine whenever possible are all essential.
  • Holiday goodwill can, and should be practiced year-round.  If you feel overwhelmed with the degree of effort you must put forth to make the holidays brighter for someone else, consider spreading your holiday cheer throughout the year.  Remembering someone special on their birthday or an anniversary is a good way to show them you care. 
  • If family gatherings are overwhelming because of differing viewpoints on social and political matters, simply listen.  It is harder than it sounds, but it may help you understand why other’s opinions differ from yours. Remaining silent is often easier in the end. 
  • The word “NO,” when used respectfully and thoughtfully, can be very powerful.  Saying “no” to further obligations, invitations or ideas that don’t feel right to you can reduce stress significantly. 

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!  TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF FIRST!