I love the holidays.
This year I decided to host Thanksgiving and I truly looked forward to every moment of it. I spent hours on various cooking websites researching recipes; I even loaded my food list into Evernotes (my new best friend for all notes in my life) and ventured off to Whole Foods to spend more in one hour than I spend in a month on groceries.
Do you know the average American gains 10 pounds from Thanksgiving to New Years?
I mention that because while I attempted to cook healthier options that were not covered in butter and oil this year, I couldn’t help notice that the conversations my friends were having were not only about staying in shape. Many conversations revolved around some sort of holiday stress.
The holidays are a funny time: travel, friends, less emails, and less work. In theory, it sounds like the perfect time of year. So why is it that so many of us feel like we need a vacation from our vacation?
Top Reason the Holidays Cause Emotional Stress
The biggest reason we gain emotional weight over the holidays is the expectation we place on this time of year. We tell ourselves: “The food should be this way.” “The day should be this way.” “I have to buy this amount of presents.” Even: “The table should be set a certain way.” “The food has to come out perfectly.” “The flowers must match the table setting.”
We layer on ideas about how the holidays “should be” and when they fall short, we feel terrible. Anxiety, anger, and resentments stir up and we begin to wonder why we invited family over, why we traveled so far, and why we even bothered to leave home.
And, come on, who hasn’t watched Charlie Brown’s Christmas or It’s a Wonderful Life over and over? These images imprint in our minds without our awareness of it – the perfect fire burning in the background with family resting quietly, drinks in hand, even wearing outfits that conjure up deeper feelings of holiday perfection.
When, in reality, most our homes are so far from these imprinted images: kids tearing through the house with no regard, family fighting or not speaking to one another, at least one side dish is overdone… and forget the fire. If there is one, it never burns quietly while I sip a scotch – I don’t even like scotch.
No, the holidays are quiet chaos – each of us attempting to suppress our individual stress.
So what can you do this year? Get out the emotional weights and do some quick reps.
Not sure what to workout? Jump on my emotional scale that hundreds of you have weighed in on.
Let go of expectations and allow the holidays to play out as they will.
- You can’t change that Uncle who has to say something rude, but you can control your response. Focus on you.
- You don’t have to be perfect. I know the lists have lists: gifts, food, travel… It’s ok if everything is not perfect. And if someone doesn’t like it, question that person’s intentions rather than kicking into self-abusive, inner critical self-talk.
- Don’t be the angry guy/gal. Sit down and take 20 deep breaths. When someone says something super annoying, try to breath into your belly. Focus on your stomach moving in and out. If that doesn’t work, take a walk. And prepare yourself before you show up with somePema Chodron.
- Don’t be a victim. No choice how the holidays play out? Don’t lie to yourself. You can always opt out. Get some popcorn, stream a great movie – you will probably have more fun than most of us.
- Give, Give, and Give till it hurts. Be friendly. Be kind. Be generous. The easiest way to enjoy yourself is to give more without expectation of anything in return…that means don’t expect any appreciation.
This holiday join me in doing things differently. Let’s avoid the emotional weight that relatives, gifts, holiday images, travel, and meal planning can add on.
Wouldn’t it be great to come back from the holidays rested, rejuvenated, and feeling ready to jump back into your life?
Make a list of your perfect holiday. What would you do if you didn’t feel pulled in 20 directions? Do that. Maybe you will upset someone. Maybe you will disappoint, but my guess is that those people will find problems regardless.