The holidays can be a wonderful time of year. However, they can also be stressful. People tend to sleep less, eat more, spend more, and see more family during one month than they do the rest of the year. We hear people say we should “slow down” and enjoy the season, but what does that really mean?
Often, the stress we experience is due to our concerns that the holidays won’t live up to our expectations of how they “should” be. Images we see in the movies or on television commercials can leave us feeling like our holidays aren’t measuring up to the standards. Some people compare their holidays to their past memories and they are left feeling disappointed that things aren’t as good as they once were. Without being able to enjoy the moment, we often miss out on the joy of the holiday season.
Holidays can certainly make people feel overwhelmed with tasks to do. Rather than dwell on what needs to get done or what you wish was different, try to focus on what is going on now and how you can enjoy whatever that might be. For example, if you are putting up holiday decorations with your children and feeling upset that you don’t have time to get it all done right now, you might find yourself feeling annoyed and end up snapping at one of the kids. Try to remind yourself that if it is not going to be enjoyable, it probably isn’t worth doing! Then focus on what you want to get done.
It’s completely fine to only put up half the decorations. The main goal is to create happy memories with the children. Twenty years from now, they probably won’t have a clue which decorations didn’t get put up but I bet they’ll remember spending time with you helping to decorate. Try not to think about the holidays as being one big checklist of things to do, but instead a time to be enjoyed.
If you don’t get to spend the holidays with the people you want, try not to allow yourself to start having negative thoughts about the season. Instead, try to focus on how you can enjoy the time you have with the people that you will be spending the holidays with. If you are spending the holidays with the in-laws, instead of your immediate family, try to enjoy what you can and don’t let the time be wasted or ruined!
When you are in a long line at a store, rather than looking at your watch and thinking about all the wrapping you have to do when you get home, try to focus on the holiday music playing in the background. Take a few moments to enjoy the holiday decorations that are on display. Relax and enjoy the moment.
Also, give yourself permission not to get everything done without feeling guilty. Do you really need to bake 4 different kinds of holiday cookies? It’s okay to use gift bags instead of wrapping every present. If the tree doesn’t look the way you had hoped, who cares? If you are hosting people at your home, remember to focus on having fun and enjoying the moment, without worrying about the food, the decorations, and cleaning up.
Make a conscious decision this year to enjoy the holiday moments and not just survive the holiday season.
**Amy Morin is a licensed clinical social worker. She has worked as a therapist for ten years in community mental health settings. She also is employed as a professor at a local community college. She has experience working with adults and children with a variety of issues including anxiety and depression. She and her husband are also foster parents.