This time of year is a confusing mix of celebration, stress, financial anxiety, and shifting priorities. You can find yourself feeling more focused on family than work or other priorities, and self-care can fall by the wayside as your calendar fills up.
So how do you keep yourself focused with so many pressures from different directions? There’s never a better time of year to practice mindfulness. You’ll find it helps keep you centered and on track to remember what is really important during the holidays.
I’ve found my clients’ schedules often fill up during this time of year and they can drift a bit from coaching. But when we do connect, universally they do so because of this holiday stress. Here’s what I tell them.
You don’t have to do everything. Even those of us that have mastered the ability to say no often become lax in setting boundaries during the holidays. Here’s the thing: you don’t need to attend every party or family gathering. And more importantly? You aren’t responsible for any hurt feelings that are the result of your saying no. You aren’t in charge of other people’s feelings.
Accept Your Habits
Whether it’s allowing yourself to eat those office holiday cookies or doing all your shopping on Christmas Eve, what really matters is that you choose what makes you happiest and the most satisfied and accept it. You’ll be able to lose the weight after Christmas if you’re worried, and you don’t need to force yourself to be one of those shop-months-in-advance people if that’s not who you are. Sit down and ask yourself what really makes you happy this time of year, and embrace it. You are allowed to feel joy, even if that joy involves those cookies.
But Keep Your Healthy Habits (Within Reason)
It can be overwhelmingly challenging to maintain your healthy habits during this time of year. Here’s the thing: you can keep your healthy habits while also relaxing if you are reasonable about it. If you work out three times a week because that’s what makes you feel the best, do your best to keep on schedule. If you have to miss a day because of other obligations, don’t feel badly about it. Just get back to the gym when you can. The key is to simply roll with the punches while doing your best.
Be Realistic and Let Go of Expectations
I have a friend in recovery and she told me once, “Expectations are just preconceived resentments.” This resonated strongly with me. When we head into the holidays it can be all too easy to into the trap of trying to use the holidays to fulfill old hopes and dreams. But chances are if Aunt Edna is a jerk to you each and every year, she will be this year too. Just accept it rather than expecting her to change. If you apply this philosophy to every aspect of the holidays (and, yes, even your family), you’ll feel much more at peace and be able to enjoy them more.
But Acknowledge Your Feelings
If Aunt Edna hurts you, it’s okay to feel hurt. It’s even okay to let her know she’s hurt you. You aren’t supposed to be a bastion of cool and aloof just because it’s the holiday. You are absolutely allowed to walk away and regroup and allow yourself to just have your feelings. Fighting how you feel only prolongs your pain. Acknowledging it, accepting it, and then processing it enough to let it go is the key to emotional peace during this time of year.
Set A Family Budget
Hope I didn’t give you whiplash going from feelings to money, but money is a huge factor this time of year and can actually play a big part in your happiness and stress. Setting boundaries and budgets with family is a simple way to ease that stress and get your family to set reasonable expectations in advance.
Prioritize Experiences Instead of Extravagance
What is really important? It’s the people in your life, not the things. Consider changing how you spend your holiday cash this year. Maybe skip buying the expensive new video game system and schedule a family day at a local indoor water park instead so your family can enjoy each other. After all, the holiday are about family. Isn’t it better to spend time with them rather than shower them with gifts?
Did you know the post office has an official “Letters to Santa” program? You can view letters to Santa (with private info removed) and choose one or more to adopt a family and become Santa for them. While of course there are many other charities and organizations out there you can help, there’s just something about choosing a single family to specifically help. Choose the letter with your family too (especially kids!) and make it a new holiday tradition as well.
Of course, even with all this advice, the holidays might not be perfect or stress free. Just do the best you can, and find the joy in the quiet moments. Happy holidays to you and yours!
Originally posted in the Philadelphia Business Journal on December 10, 2015.