Create Your Own Meaning of the Holiday Season

“May your walls know joy, may every room hold laughter, and every window open to great possibility.” – Mary Anne Radmacher

Dear Friends,

The holiday season originated in the mid-20th century with a blending of religious holidays, cultural traditions and commercialism surrounding a series of events, activities, experiences, and expenses. From Thanksgiving dinners to Christmas pageants, department store Santas, and much more, expressing the holiday spirit and participating in myriad events became common.

Commercializing the holidays may have boosted the economy, but it also pressured families to expect more, do more, spend more, and experience more. In most people’s mind, this time of year should be filled with fun, wonderment, and awe, but is often wrought with stress, worry, and anxiety. Time that’s supposed to be centered on the magic of the season, family gatherings, and creating special memories is instead characterized by dysfunction and desperate attempts to survive that dysfunction.

Trying to juggle the demands of daily life with the added elements of the holidays can be overwhelming and stressful. Wouldn’t it be great to enjoy the holidays without such stress and strife? Wouldn’t it be amazing to experience stress-free family time and everything that you’ve dreamed to make it a wonderful and memorable occasion without losing your temper or joy?

The reality is this… what is deemed a storybook holiday season differs by individual. What you find delightful and memorable might be unappealing to someone else... and that’s okay. There’s no “right” way to celebrate the holidays. Some families celebrate holidays in large groups centered around meals, games, and traditions. Other families enjoy takeout and go to a movie. There are as many ways to celebrate as there are holidays. No one way is the right way, so whatever works for your family is perfect.  On the other hand, what happens when what's working for your family is no longer working for you? Perhaps it's time for you to reconsider the meaning of the holiday season.

Create Your Own Meaning of the Holiday Season

Despite the pressure you feel during the holidays it is entirely possible for you to morph from stressful to stress-less. Reigning in your negative thoughts, feelings, emotions, and behaviors and making a solid plan can ensure your holidays are more pleasant, peaceful, and fun.

Regardless how you choose to celebrate, the most important thing is making sure you don’t end the year feeling, beaten, broken, or defeated. Here are 10 ways you can create your own meaning of the holiday season.

1. Begin with Gratitude – Start today being thankful for all that you have, lessons learned, and where you are in this moment in time.

2. Be Intentional – Whatever you do and say, do and say it on purpose with the intent of making a positive difference in the world.

3. Manage Your Time – Implement a time management plan. Start with an audit of how you currently spend your time; set and wisely prioritize your goals; set a time limit to accomplish each task; organize yourself; delegate specific tasks, if  necessary; remove non-essential tasks; create a positive environment to work; and don’t be afraid to say no to additional commitments.

4. Get Honest about Family – Blood may be thicker than water, but blood is not thicker than peace. Limit or eliminate the amount of time you spend with toxic relatives.

5. Manage Expectations – Manage your own and others’ expectations. Seek to prevent disappointment by establishing in advance what task, project or course of action can and cannot be realistically accomplished or delivered.

6. Establish Healthy Boundaries – Create a framework for healthy boundaries—your right to privacy, your right to your own time, the ability to change your mind, freedom of self-expression, remaining true to your core values, ability to communicate your needs, etc.—and stick to them.

7. Create Your Own Traditions – Holiday traditions are special because of the meaning attached to them. If your traditions are not meaningful to you, expand your current ones or create an entire set of new ones. Decide what it will be, who will be involved, and set intentions for your traditions. Answering these questions might help you in the process: “What do I want this season to be about?” “What do I not want this season to be about?” “What do I especially appreciate that my parents did during the holidays?” “What was my favorite tradition while growing up? "What do I particularly enjoy doing now?” 

8. Manage Your Money – Analyze your current debt. Figure out how much you can afford (or want) to spend during the holidays, set a clear and concise budget, and don’t stray from it. Begin with a list of holiday expenses and save for them throughout the year. By planning ahead, you can enjoy a healthier, happier, and stress-free holiday season.

9. Reconsider Gift-Giving – There’s no better time than now to reconsider gift-giving by reviewing the tradition and refocusing your intentions to foster mental, emotional, and physical well-being during the holidays. You can celebrate the holidays in many ways, whether or not you give or exchange gifts. If you do choose to celebrate with gifts, determine ahead of time what the gifting tradition means to you and how you will execute it to minimize stress.

10. Push Through the Rough Patches – Life is unpredictable, so the best laid plans are subject to Murphy’s Law which states, “If anything can go wrong, it will”. Nonetheless, this is no reason to not go after what you want. When we encounter an experience that we do not want, we gain clarity about what we do want. Whatever rollercoaster moments you may experience this holiday season, remember that the opposite of Murphy’s Law is Yhprum’s (Murphy spelled backwards) Law: “Everything that can work, will work”.

I understand how difficult it can be to take control of your holidays and set important limits that bring true freedom. However, I am confident that you can fully enjoy the results when you do take control. You deserve to have a wonderful and happy holiday season that creates lasting memories for years to come. Don’t leave the season to chance; be intentional about creating your own path, plans, and meaning. Best wishes to you and yours for a warm, safe, and joyful holiday season!!

Until Next Time,

Dr. Mary

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