Holidays tend to call forth not only joy but distress too. Powerful emotions may be tied to prior memories, or to wishes you have for your future to be different from your past. In this article you will discover powerful ways to create happier, less stress-filled holiday experiences. These ways work for all holidays: secular and religious, personal and cultural.Romantic and family holidays are the ones that tend to activate the strongest emotional charges in most people:
Family-focused holidays include Christmas for Christians, the High Holy Days Passover for Jews, Thanksgiving in the U.S. Canada, and so forth.
Examples of holidays that are more romantically focused include not only anniversaries but New Years Eve, Valentines Day, and sometimes even office holiday parties.
The trick to changing your holiday experiences for the better is knowing which changes can make the biggest difference. Upgrading any or all of these seven areas can transform any holiday for the better:1. CELEBRATIONS PLAYFULNESS: Many holidays provide opportunities for both children and adults to come out and play. Consider what kinds of activities would add fun and celebration to this holiday for you, and with whom. Some long-standing traditions feel nourishing to continue and sometimes you’ll want to create new traditions. Examples of playful celebration for holidays such as Christmas include parties, drives to the country, playing in the snow, caroling, tree decorating, attending concerts, etc.
2. SPIRITUAL EXPRESSION: Some holidays may carry a deeper or more sacred significance for you that you might wish to honor in some way. Which activities help you express your spiritual connection to this holiday? Examples of spiritual expression include meditating, prayer, attending services or rituals that are part of your chosen religious or spiritual tradition, volunteering in a soup kitchen or making other donations to charity, reading stories about the origins of the holidays you’re celebrating, etc.3. REMEMBERING: We all know that some holidays seem like inevitable appointments with revisiting the past. Sometimes those past memories are painful and sometimes they are nostalgic or even pleasant. This can be intensified by the loss of someone precious during the past year, when a loved one is dealing with a major life upheaval, or when someone you love seeing during a particular holiday isn’t available this time around. For all of these reasons it may be important to build in some time to talk about these things. Depending on the circumstance, you might do this alone or with others. This is important because missing people and missed times past tend to attend many holidays whether invited or not. So, pull up a chair for them in your heart.4. COMPLETING LOOKING FORWARD: Some holidays, particularly those occurring toward the end of the year, offer natural opportunities to review the past year and set goals for the next. What goal-setting rituals feel nourishing to you to do, alone or with others? Examples of New Year rituals include doing a year-end review, expressing gratitude you feel for what you’ve learned over the past year, making amends with others, setting goals for the coming year, and expressing wishes you have for others and for the world in the coming year. Make plans for creating this holiday in a happier and/or more fulfilling way next year and forgiving yourself for what you didn’t do this year. Remember that changing holiday traditions takes time – often years – to fine-tune!5. GIVING SPENDING: Another component built into many holidays is giving. For most of us, giving nourishes us at least as much as it does those to whom we give. While some tend to overlook this opportunity, far more tend to fall into the opposite trap of over-giving. Over-giving can take many forms, from spending more money than you have to spending more energy than you have to spending energy on things that leave you feeling more empty rather than more full. All of us have limits. Disregarding your boundaries invites exhaustion and resentment. The way to prevent this is to create an “Over-Giving Prevention Plan.” This is your commitment to giving from love rather than guilt. Let your passion and the amount of life energy you have be your guide instead of shoulds-based expectations. Feeling resentful is as reliable a way to know whether you’re over-giving as feeling drained. Decide how much money you can spend on buying gifts or how much time you can spend on making them. A big key holiday mastery is accepting your limits and honoring your boundaries.
6. PERSONAL RE-CENTERING ACTIVITIES: Holidays can have the nasty habit of compromising our life balance, both as we prepare for them and even as we celebrate them. The danger of neglecting the self-care activities that keep you centered and energized always lurks unless you remain mindful. Being true to your personal boundaries can help you maintain your self-care routines. Doing this will help make any holiday more joyous. Make specific self-care commitments to yourself ahead of time. It’s okay to take “time-outs” from the family or the hustle and bustle. Going on regular walks (alone or with others you feel particularly nourished to be with), checking in with growth-oriented friends, going to support group meetings, journal writing and meditation, eating well, moving your body, and getting enough sleep, are all important parts of a wonderful self-care plan. Which self-care/re-centering activities work best for you?7. PLANNING FOR GLITCHES: If you’re honest with yourself you know beforehand the hurts, fights or other distresses are likely to surface when your family gets together for holidays. Give yourself a break and plan ahead. Here’s how: list all the incidents you suspect could occur. Select new actions you’ll take for each one so that you take better care of yourself should that situation arise.My clients taught me that these are the strategies that work best to maintain love and joy during any holiday. I found that they work for me too. May they work for you as well!
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