By Carol Michalski, MSW, LCSW
It bothers me that so many conversations I have at this time of year contain some level of stress and anxiety about the upcoming holiday season. What is up with that? Shouldn’t this time of year be about peace, joy and celebration? Although my holiday experience has changed over the
years, as all things must change, I still love the holidays!
It’s understandably complex; the holiday season taps into all of our personal beliefs and values, from our feelings about how our families function to our vision of how things are “supposed to be.” Throw a substantial dose of shameless consumerism and “Hallmark moments” into the mix and it’s no wonder people both love and dread December.
It is what it is. You can’t control the media or bring back the past. However, there is an option; there is always an option if you are open to acceptance of change. You can consciously change your perception of this time of year. Rather than just going along for the ride year after year, you can make it your intention to make this a different year.
- Get clear about what is important to you. What is the holiday about? Is it about family, time for spiritual or religious practices, giving? There are no right answers, just yours. Once you identify your priorities, make time for those things.
- Don’t try to spend your way into happiness. Often, we equate love and generosity with the value of a gift. Gift-giving can take many forms. Consider taking a break from gift-giving this year. Organize the family to volunteer, or pool funds that would have been used for personal gifts and make a donation to a favorite charity.
- Stop worrying. If you start imagining stressful scenarios about family and social interactions, ask yourself: Is this a certainty? What else could be true? Is this the only possible outcome? Worrying about the future or regretting the past isn’t going to change anything, and it’s a waste of time and energy.
- Create your own traditions. Although I have loved and enjoyed earlier times in my life when the traditional Christmas activities were in full swing, I have adapted to the changing times. Things I did not previously have time for, such as attending Christmas music concerts, seeing friends instead of family or even traveling, have all created joyful and meaningful holiday memories!
- Stick to your
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- Keep a gratitude journal. Don’t take your good fortune for granted. Keep
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track of the positives! Research shows that just noticing three positive things a day for 15 days increases feelings of happiness by 92 percent!
- Practice generosity of spirit. Without expecting anything in return, notice how good it feels when you see someone happy because of your generosity! Be really present for a friend, open the door for someone or share a laugh.
- Stick to your
For me, the holidays are about remembering the values I grew up with, the reason we are celebrating, the goodness of people around me and a deep feeling of gratitude for my life. I’m looking forward to this December … are you?