Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Five Ways to Survive "Holiday-itis"

The biggest concern on most of my clients' minds these days is the holidays. Thanksgiving has come and gone and for most of my clients it was more about getting through the holiday than about enjoying it. I, too, found myself a victim of what I call "holiday-itis." Holiday-itis is the irrational and overwhelming desire many of us have to romanticize, glamourize and super-size our fears, hopes and outcomes for the holidays.

It looks a little something like, "First, I'll make dinner for 20 and invite our entire family over to celebrate the festivities. I know that Uncle Bob and my husband hate each other with a passion, but I just know that they will both be able to overcome the desire they have to rip each others' heads off, because it is such a happy season. Next, I'll bake homemade cookies for everyone on the block, hand make scrap books for all the grandparents, shop for and wrap presents for all 100 people on our list (oh, and send Christmas cards), lose that stubborn ten pounds before the holiday parties start, oh, yeah, attend all the holiday parties, beat those competitive neighbors next door and have the BEST decorations this year, and do it all while maintaining my already full schedule. I'll just have to sleep less. It will be so much fun!"

I don't know about you, but I get exhausted just reading that! Of course, your scenario may not be exactly the same as the one above, but I'd be willing to bet that for many of you, the holidays are a time of stress and striving, instead of a time of loving and thriving. If you're prone to feeling more stress and striving, here are five ways to help you bring more loving and thriving into your holidays.

Recognize The Tendency to Want to Do More
For some reason, we humans tend to want to do more than is humanly possible during the holidays. Our competitive natures really kick in and we can't seem to be satisfied to enjoy ourselves and our lives as they are. Now I know that this isn't a tendency reserved just for the holidays, but it is during this season that advertisers really want you to buy, so they up the ante on the "without this you are nothing" and "what kind of uncaring schlub would you be if you didn't get this for your loved one for Christmas" messages. I'm not blaming the advertisers, just asking you to stop, just for a moment, when you want to be, do or have more for the holidays, and recognize that you might be buying in to someone else's idea of what's best for you. If, in that moment, you can recognize that you are fine, wonderful and magnificent just as you are, you'll have inoculated yourself against the need to be more, do more and have more, and the stress that goes with those thoughts.

Ask Yourself If It's True
Any time one of those pesky holiday-itis thoughts comes whizzing through your brain and you feel like you want to latch on to it, ask yourself if it's true. For example, when you get the bright idea that you would love it if all 30 of your closest relatives came to your house for Christmas, ask yourself, "Is that true?" Then, take just a few moments and really tune into your body. What is happening to you as you picture all 30 of your relatives over for Christmas? Do you feel relaxed, calm and happy at the prospect, or is your body suddenly so tense that you could be mistaken for the Tin Man? Do this with any holiday-related thoughts and notice how much stress over the holidays is due to blindly believing and following your thoughts.

Don't Expect the Family Dynamics to Suddenly Heal Themselves
Love your family as they are RIGHT NOW. They will not suddenly decide to love and enjoy each other if they haven't been doing so up until now. The demand that our families and ourselves be different than they are is ludicrous and stressful. If you don't like being around your mother-in-law, don't pretend, just for the sake of a holiday that you do. It's a lie, and like all lies, can only cause stress and anxiety. Your mother-in-law probably already knows how you feel about her and your sudden pandering to her feels like manipulation. Be honest. Have your family over, if that's what YOU really want to do. And then, just LOVE them, exactly as they are. Let them be WHO and WHAT they are, whether that is loving, joyful, and happy or angry, hurt and resentful. Your demand that they be different, just because it's a holiday, will only add stress to the situation. Acknowledge yourself and your family members as doing the best they can and see if that doesn't end the stress inside you. You will be more peaceful during the holidays, even if they aren't, and that can only be a good thing.

Give to Others What You Want To Receive from Them
The fastest way to get anything is to give it away first. There is only one way to feel loved, appreciated, joyful or any of the myriad feelings that we humans want to feel and that is to give it to someone else (including ourselves). We don't feel love FROM another, we feel the love that we GIVE TO another. I can send you loving thoughts all I want, but if you don't have love for yourself or others inside, you will never feel it. Feelings come FROM us, not TO us. I give you love, and in the process, I feel the love I give you. I give you understanding, and in the process, I feel the understanding I give you. I give you resentment, anger or guilt, and I FEEL the resentment, anger or guilt that I give to you. You don't feel any of this. Try this out. Go sit in a crowded mall and give out love to someone near you. Do they register it? Do they feel it? No. Who does? You do. Do the same with understanding, joy, resentment or guilt. YOU are the one who feels it, not them. If you want to feel more peace, joy and love during the holidays, give them out. If you want to feel less stress, anxiety and tension, STOP giving them out.

Finally, Let the Christmas Cookies Fall Where They May
Try this as an experiment this holiday season: when mistakes happen, or things get missed or don't turn out the way you wanted them to, let it be. See what happens when you are present with the reality of your holiday and not stuck in what you think your holiday ought to be. Go ahead and make plans, make dates, have preferences for how you'd like things to be, and then be perfectly okay with however it all turns out to be. Enjoy the gifts that are given to you each moment in this holiday season. Don't label what happens as wrong, rather, see the beauty in being here, being alive and being available for whatever your holidays bring you.

Blessings and joy, dear ones.

1 comment:

  1. Natalie- that's a fabulous article. I really needed to read that today! I'm going to forward it to some friends too...!