What Do You Need To Find Some Joy In This Holiday?
Holiday.... just the word conjures up a picture of twinkly lights, joy, gratefulness, and sweets. Or
that’s what the media tells us anyway. The reality is the holidays are a very hard time for people. There are the people who feel alone the rest of the year and the realization that they don’t have the friends or family they desire around them, for whatever reason, is even worse at the holidays; or, there are those people who have lost loved ones, whether this year or in the past, this time of year brings that loss into focus acutely; or, there are the many people struggling through illness, loss of work, or another personal tragedy. Then there are just the vast majority of people who live always busy between work, family, and any bit of fun time they can carve out and all of a sudden this season comes around where they are supposed to have extra time set aside for joyful gatherings of friends and family, time for baking, shopping, present wrapping, and more. Where is that time supposed to come from? Wouldn’t it be nice if our days came with an extra hour between Thanksgiving and New Year’s? It’s no wonder people get tired over the holidays as they cope with the lack of sleep, increased stress, the darkest time of the year, and the extra rich food and drink.
How do we work with this time of year in the kindest way possible? I suggest a focus on self-compassion, awareness, and connection.
I felt driven to write this blog post as the majority of people that hug me and say Happy Holidays seem to have an underlying sadness about them or they have a deer in the headlights look that says, “I’m nowhere near done buying and wrapping presents, my kids are off school starting next week, and I haven’t done any decorating or cookie baking – I’m so behind!”
One of the most important things we can do is to realize we aren’t alone. While we are made to feel like everyone else is happy and has all the time in the world to put up lights and bake cookies. It’s not true. You are not alone. There are others struggling in the same way you are struggling. I invite you to
- Talk about your loved ones who are no longer with you and ask others about the people they wished were still sitting around their tree.
- Acknowledge sadness or fatigue when you feel it.
- Let people know you feel overwhelmed or tired. I bet most say, ME TOO!
To practice self-compassion, I invite you to be aware. What are you feeling? If you are feeling grateful, happy, or joyful, that is excellent. Now that you are aware of it, enjoy that feeling in your body! But, if you are feeling overwhelmed, sad, or anxious more than grateful and happy, just make note. Try not to judge yourself. Let yourself know. “This is normal. Many people feel this way. It’s a hard time of year.” Then take some time to think, what needs to happen? Do I need to take some things off of my to-do list? Do I need a little silence? Do I need to take care of myself in some specific way; maybe fresh air, exercise, or early to bed tonight?
Here are some additional concrete suggestions for how you might work with the time you have to both care for yourself and take time for the holiday activities that make you happy.
- Instead of feeling like you should have more time, I invite you to try to find little bits of joy in the time you already have scheduled.
- Do you love to bake, but the reality is you are feeling overwhelmed by it? Acknowledge that feeling; let go of the “should” in what you “should be doing”; and enjoy what you “choose” to do. Maybe you can only make two types cookies, instead of your normal 5 types of cookies, but you can really enjoy taking that time and not feel guilty.
- Often during this time of year even those things we enjoy overwhelm us. It’s just too much, whether it’s coffee with friends, playing an instrument at church, etc. We just say “yes” to too much. Think to yourself, can I say “yes” to this request without getting overwhelmed? If the answer is “no” – say no. Another option is to realize that there may be something in-between no and yes. Can you say, “No, I can’t do ____, it’s just too much, but I’d love to ….. help with this other part … or meet you for coffee instead of a whole evening of drinks” You get the idea!
- If there are activities that are “must do’s” on your list, try to take some time to make them work for you and possibly change your mind set about them. Again, be aware of things you are dreading. Awareness is always the first step! And then think, “what can I do to make this more enjoyable?”.
- For example, make a cup of tea or hot cocoa and put on some nice music before settling in to do presents.
- Stop for a favorite coffee drink, before attacking your present shopping, or maybe even meet up with a friend and shop together! Positive socialization and crossing something off the list! Win!
- Do you usually have a holiday gathering, and you still want to do that but can’t imagine prepping all the food? Put the call out for pot luck or ask them to bring something specific. I can guarantee you that while people may honestly enjoy your cooking, they would love to bring something if it means you enjoy the party and they still get to gather.
And finally, keep coming back to the present moment. Enjoy each moment with a friend or grandchild, without wasting it thinking about how overwhelmed you are about tomorrow or the next week. Just take it one moment at a time. This is not easy, but it’s the practice, and it supports our ability to be grateful for our moments instead of just continually overwhelmed about what’s next on the list.