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Surviving the Holidays

Oh…the joy of the holidays! Halloween is behind us and now we immediately enter holiday shopping time. (Thanksgiving is now a consumer hurdle for retailers - they jump right over it!) The holidays are a time for going home to re-connect with family and loved ones. It’s a time of pressure to see how good you are at reading the mind of your spouse or children to purchase those “perfect” gifts he/she has hinted at but won’t come right out to tell you what they want. It’s a time of planning and prepping all the sweet treats and goodies that cost three times what you should spend on fatty, sugary treats. But, hey, it’s the holidays and the pressure to NOT participate most often outweighs the pressure to overextend your budget. You know it will take you months to financially dig out from this joyous time of year. The illusion generates hope that THIS year you’ll have a Hallmark-like classic season of harmony and laughter. If this really IS your reality, read no more. You’re one in a million!

For the rest of us….lol….shake your head and wake up from the illusion of bliss and face the hard truth. This time of year is a pressure cooker sitting on HIGH waiting to blow. Families can be difficult. Siblings/spouses/children and friends, with their unique quirks and temperaments, can be like quieting a group of teenage girls at a rock concert, each screaming for attention. The pressures of planning, shopping, wrapping gifts, “traditions” (each individual family MUST create traditions, right!?!), decorating to keep up with the neighbors, cooking…and then CLEANING the mess…well, it’s exhausting, physically and emotionally. We all want to create that fantasy day with tons of presents and looks of awe but should we at the expense of our mental health and empty wallet!?!

So why DO we continue to trudge through the work and challenges?

What keeps us going is the hope that as others reflect on these family holidays, they will open their hearts and know that you acted out of love. The joy you feel will not come from the gifts under the tree, the decorations, or the dinner. Those are simply symbolic of a caring heart. The hope is that moving forward those close to you will use these loving memories to help navigate the challenges that life deals us, knowing they are not alone…never alone. We wish that our loved ones could learn this early in life but understand each of us has choice to absorb at their own pace and timing. So, we hold open the space to remind them of that choice every year.

Yep, the holidays are here again!

The last two months of the calendar year are by far the most emotionally stressful. We are conditioned to believe this is THE time to express love for our family and friends. Shopping season opens the moment Halloween is done. Christmas music and holiday decorations can’t get up fast enough. Holiday commercials are non-stop. The news encourages us to “shop early before shelves are empty”. Black Friday which used to occur AFTER Thanksgiving, is happening now….WAY before my turkey is cooked (no insult intended to those vegans amongst us). Don’t wait!! Grocery stores are filled with all the ingredients we need to cook and prepare months ahead. OMG…there is no escape.

The holidays can be an emotional drain. It can be overwhelming to consider living up to the holiday hype if you live on a tight budget. So you do the best you can with what you have and hope your family appreciates your efforts.

One of the biggest challenges we face is family. I’m the youngest of six children. I will ALWAYS be the youngest of my siblings, but I am no longer a child. Visiting with them or going home to the parents’ house can mean going back to the established “pecking order” of family dynamics. (Do you enjoy this as much as I do?) Even if your parents have passed on, a new matriarch is normally established to take over the role of senior board member within the family. If you happen to BE this designated person, you know the added pressure to motivate, gather, and direct the independent minds back together for a visit. It can be like herding cats (no offense to our feline friends).

If this doesn’t sit well with you, then it’s up to you to educate family of your new role as ‘equal”. Once you change YOUR mindset (your choice, of course), set new expectations on how you wish to be treated by parents and siblings BEFORE you gather together. Inform them of what/how you wish to be treated moving forward. It’s not about hurting anyone’s feelings but rather about honoring who you are. You are an adult and ready to step up to act and participate as an adult. You can still have fun, but you do it responsibly as a good example to others. You can DO this! Lead my example. See yourself as a “trend setter” for other members of your family who also wish to be recognized as an adult but haven’t taken that step.

As we grow older, we move out of our parental home to establish our own homes. Once we marry, we create unique traditions that blend a little bit from one side of the family with a little bit from the partner or spouse side of the family. And we create brand new traditions based on new trends, etc. If your family has deep social, ethnic, or spiritual traditions that no longer fit with your new family environment, it can cause tension to return to the “old ways” and pretend they fit. You can pick and choose what you can live with and give yourself permission to say “NO” to traditions that compromise your ethics, values, etc., or create more stress than joy.

This is one way to acknowledge that you have changed and offer others the choice to accept you as you are today rather than the former “you” they remember. You deserve to be loved for who you are today instead of the illusion held from the Past.

Here are some tips to help release emotional stress:

  • Know that there is no “perfect”. Stop trying to achieve it! Each of us holds a piece of the truth of this world, equal to any other piece. No matter how much money or power you have, this piece is the same size. Stand in YOUR truth.

  • The true gold in this world is not the stuff we own. It is the love we offer and accept. Be forgiving of those around you, and honor who you are.

  • Know the boundaries of what is yours to own and what emotional baggage belongs to others. Mistakes happen. We should learn from them and become wiser.

  • You have choice…always! You can accept bad behavior or move away from it. Never allow someone to take your self-worth or self-esteem.

  • You are deserving to be loved, feel safe, and to grow.

  • Be brave enough to laugh and share your heart. Love is more valuable than fear. Invest in love.

This time of year is especially difficult if you have lost a loved one. Because so much emphasis is placed on sharing WITH family, for those that have lost someone close to your heart, it’s an extremely painful reminder of what can no longer be shared in this reality. This loss could be from death or through conflict, geographic distance, or illness. A loss is a loss, some more intense than others, but all hurtful and sad. It’s okay to find time or ways to include your loved ones in the holidays.

  • Decorate a special picture to remember those that cannot attend in person. Place it somewhere that can be clearly seen.

  • Make a toast during dinner to all those not present.

  • Find time to quiet yourself and connect through your heart and thoughts. You can even communicate through your thoughts as you prepare food and share in gifts, etc.

  • Make a gift to a charity or cause in the name of your loved one and wrap that gift. Then open it as part of the celebrations.

From my heart to yours I wish each of you a beautiful, stress-free holiday. I don’t yet know whether my grown children will be with me in person, but I know they will be with me in spirit. I celebrate that. The holidays are a time of surprises and miracles. Believe in miracles!!

Happy holidays.


Hypnotherapist, Nutritional Health Coach, and Certified Brain Health Coach

Author, Shift Your Thoughts, Shift Your Life and Proactive Plan To Manage Diet and Health

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