The holidays in Southern California are unique. You can watch Boat Parades in your short-sleeved shirt, view the holiday lights of while riding in a Gondola, and stroll around the seaside villages while listening to carolers.
Unique holiday experiences abound, but unfortunately, many of us self-generate so much stress during the holiday season we can’t truly enjoy it. We over commit, overcomplicate, let our personal boundaries be violated, and try to make the holidays live up to an unrealistic ideal.
To prepare your mind for the holidays, ask yourself, who do I need to be to create the holiday I want? Creating a pleasant holiday season may be as simple as being: realistic, calm, flexible, assertive, whole, and in the present.
Be Realistic (not perfectionistic). Focusing on the perfect gift, the cleanest house, the fanciest holiday dress, the most complex impeccably timed meal may actually get in the way of holiday. Our perfectionism may stem from childhood messages like: “You have to be the best” or “Don’t embarrass yourself.” To prevent these thoughts from driving you into exhausted frenzy: be aware when they creep up, understand that they aren’t helpful to you, and replace them with positive thoughts like: “I’m already good enough.”
Be Flexible: It’s good to have a vision of the holiday you want to create, but rigidly sticking to it can make you unhappy. Prepare yourself to be open to what happens. Serendipity can create new traditions, joyful accidents, and new entertaining holiday stories. Remember, eating Chinese takeout instead of cooking a giant turkey could be even more fun!
Be Calm: you can remain calm during the holiday season by getting enough rest, keeping things simple, delegating, and engaging in deeply relaxing activities like getting a massage or doing yoga. Use one of the neck massagers reviewed here and get stressed relief.
Be Assertive: Be ready to say “no.” It may be tempting to go to eight holiday parties, but will you enjoy the holiday season if you do?
The key to saying no is to never say “yes” in the moment. Instead say “I’ll get back to you on that.” Then look at the request or invitation and ask yourself: “does this fit within my priorities? “is this a reasonable request?”, and “will I overextend myself if I accept this invitation/request?”
Also, set boundaries with family and friends. Let them know what you expect of them. For example, you may expect them to be on time, treat you with respect, and refrain from being negative or critical.
A specific type of personal boundary violation that may come up during the holidays is the use of negative childhood labels (e.g., black sheep, slow learner, uncoordinated, lazy, or irresponsible).
Even though you’re an adult, these labels can be damaging to your self esteem. Let your family know prior to your visit that using these labels is unacceptable. If the behavior occurs, remind them to stop in the moment: “please do not call me lazy.”
Be Whole (not needy): Stop hoping your parents, siblings, extended family, or friends will meet your needs. You may need approval from your father, warmth from your mother, but they may not be capable of giving it. If you don’t expect so much, you won’t be disappointed.
Be In the present: Don’t allow your thoughts of last minute shopping and making the turkey dinner get in the way of holiday joy. Instead, slow down, savor the experiences, focus on the present, and use your senses to absorb every last morsel of joy.
Remember, holiday joy is about the sites, sounds, tastes, and smells and connecting with those we love.
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