This is the time of year when we begin to envision things. Full stockings, sugar plum fairies, quiet candlelight services, Santa and the elves, or any number of other symbols of holiday celebration. Sadly, our visions can often set us up with significant pressure as we pour our energy into the pursuit of making those visions a reality. I dream every year of sitting in a fully decorated house and calmly sipping hot chocolate with the whole family while a fire crackles in the fireplace. Instead, tonight, two strands of lights are burned out and a trip to Target has been added to the to-do list. My toddler has a bump on his head and refuses to let me hold ice on it. But we are together, and there is peace (if not calmness!) in that.
1. Be mindful of the images that you begin to construct in your mind of how the holidays need to look and accept that the holidays may hold more than hugs, smiles, and gifts. For some, the holidays may mean tolerating an awkward relationship dynamic, or words hanging in the air that were never really discussed or resolved. It may include fears of what others think of you, or the struggle to let go of a person or situation. Maybe it’s a reminder of financial stress, or losses that occurred this time of year.
2. Acknowledge the humanity that is inherent in ourselves and others during the holidays, and to embrace what we celebrate anyway. We can almost guarantee something unexpected, so it’s vital to adjust our expectations accordingly, and consciously revisit what it is we are really celebrating.
3. Practice good self-care since it is more within your control and has great benefits. For instance, get enough sleep. Eat filling and balanced meals. Drink in moderation, if at all. Gravitate toward and stay in contact with people who energize you. But realize that there are many factors that are not in your control, and despite our best intentions, may not look like those images we hope to experience.
Find and focus on that which you can truly celebrate, regardless of how others may or may not respond. Allow your holiday celebration to include room for surprises, a sense of humor, and a commitment to seek peace and joy that transcends images or circumstances.