The holidays are so frenetic, and we look forward to them for so long, that it’s easy to end up feeling pushed around by the day-to-day stresses and to be left with a sense of disappointment at the end. One of the ways to combat this is to decide on three things you’d like to focus on during the holidays. Then, in the midst of the (usually) joyful craziness you can anchor yourself in what matters most to you. Here’s a dozen sample ideas of things you might decide to focus on:
- Spending one-on-one time with each of your kids.
- Praying each day.
- Expressing gratitude to a certain person (e.g., search the for term “gratitude letter” above).
- Being sober.
- Lightening the load of your spouse/partner.
- Forgiving someone for an old injury (this needn’t be done collaboratively, though it can be).
- Practicing the Serenity Prayer when surprising events happen.
- Responding with kindness when another adult acts in an uncomplimentary fashion (e.g., bragging, acting stingy).
- Being of service to vulnerable people (e.g., someone who tends to be marginalized in groups, the poor, someone with a disability)
- Promoting magical experiences (e.g., you can find multiple ideas for Santa rituals to do with kids on this blog site).
- Organizing family experiences that promote bonding (e.g., baking, caroling, playing board games).
- Focusing on your health (e.g., getting 8 hours of sleep, completing one hour of physically exerting activity and eating whole foods).
To keep your focus, it’s a good idea to put your three priorities in places you’ll see them (e.g., on your computer’s or cell phone’s desk top, on a sticky note you place on your bathroom mirror) or by setting alarms in your cellphone.
There are three traps to avoid:
- There is usually no good purpose to beating yourself up if you have a day when you fall down on one or more of your priorities. You do well when you judge yourself for your intention and effort and avoid conscious or unconscious expectations for perfection, something that we parent-lunatics fall prey to all the time.
- When doing something nice for someone else it’s a good idea to not expect a certain response. Sure, it’s nice when someone is grateful, reciprocates or otherwise shows a positive reaction to your outreach. But, when that response becomes an expectation–be it conscious or unconscious–the outcome of your act of kindness can too often be increased tension and bitterness.
• Expecting that others will join you on the high road. Holiday stresses can regress just about anyone, especially when large groups of family come together. It’s lovely when others follow your lead but expecting that can too often end up leaving you feeling empty and frustrated.
I want to close by thanking my wife, Lia, for suggesting this week’s topic and by expressing my hope that your holidays will be packed with meaning, joy and rejuvenation!