The holiday season is upon us.
For many, the holidays conjure images of cozy nights, and time spent with loved ones. For others, the holidays trigger pain about loved ones lost, or complicated gatherings that leave us feeling empty or stressed, or maybe no one to gather with at all.
No matter your feeling about the holidays season, there are heavy emotions associated with this time of year. And relational dysfunction is at the heart of this suffering. Loved ones with varying expectations, familial patterns playing out, and the pressure to create the "perfect moment or meal"can be overwhelming. Especially in the post-pandemic era when we're still sorting out the emotional whiplash from so much division between families and friends driven by whatever stand they took (or didn’t take) regarding the COVID narrative.
While you can't always control what happens around you during the holidays, you can control your ability to stay true to who you are. And when you stay true to yourself, you can always experience joy, whether you are spending the holidays with loved ones, or alone.
Here are 3 tips to keep the holidays bright this year...
People often believe holidays should be a *certain* way based on their past experiences. Some love giant gatherings with all extended family involved. Others prefer Friendsgivings, quiet evenings with board games, or even a vacation.
No matter how you choose to spend your holidays, it's important to keep your expectations of others at bay.
Believing that WE do holidays the "right way" and all others need to do as we expect is unrealistic and unhealthy. It creates pain and disappointment for all. Christiane Northrup, MD talks about the concept of Energy Vampires in her books. This is a classic energy vampire pattern -- attempting to make you feel badly because you desire something different than their ideal. Do not be pulled down by this.
Holidays shift from year to year, just as people, families and friendships do. If we move from expectations to appreciations -- value who/what is right in front of us, as opposed to judging what/who is missing -- the holidays will be more enjoyable for all.
Reminding ourselves that we do not have to play "good girl/boy" and adhere to unreasonable family expectations is how we come back to ourselves. This may be triggering for others in your circle who are used to having it their way.
But compromising your wellbeing for the sake of others is not a pattern worth continuing, over the holidays, or any other time. You holding your boundaries is an excellent model for other near you to be able to do the same.
Channel Lioness, Channel Bear
If you find yourself alone this holiday and this thought makes you sad, channel your Inner Lioness. Be brave, reach out to a neighbor, some friends or people you work with. Ask them over and create your own celebration. Get a friend and volunteer, go see a show or attend a service. Do something new, brave and different.
Holidays don't always have to be about OLD traditions, they can be about creating new ones, too.
If you're on the other end of the spectrum and have far too many people and events to include into your holiday, schedule hibernation time -- channel your Inner Bear.
Leave space in the middle of your day for a nap or a jog. Stay in and watch a movie as opposed to going to another party. Schedule one night on, one night off. Allow yourself to see important family members not on the EXACT day of celebration, but a day before or after.
Share and Reflect upon Stories
Part of what makes the holidays so important are the memories that connect us to our childhoods.
Think of a favorite story to share about a loved one who passed, or a story of a holiday you'll never forget. Share or journal about it.
Our stories weave the tapestry of our lives. Sharing them with others makes us more relatable, and conjures meaningful memories for all to share. Writing about them allows us to sink into, and relive the emotions that make us feel joyful and alive.
It is these very stories that will be passed on for generations to come. Make space to celebrate and remember them, if even for just yourself.
No matter how you celebrate the holidays this season, may you stay true to yourself.