A mindset is something we consciously do to cultivate a more focused effort on a specific outcome. If you are like me, you want there to be wonderful memories made this holiday and you will hope, even pray, that everything goes just so; everyone plays nice in the preverbal sandbox of life, and every detail falls into place gently like that White Christmas we’re all dreaming of.
A couple of nights ago, I was spending time with my now adult daughters, and a discussion of upcoming holiday gatherings came up. One said she really wished that she didn’t have to try and figure out presents. The other one quickly agreed. She asked, “Can we just not do presents?” Seeing their distress, like any good mother would do, I said, “Sure.” Pondering, I thought, how many times I, too, wished that I could just enjoy the company of those I choose to spend the holiday with, instead of fretting over: “The perfect gift.” “Did I spend enough?” “Will they like it?” “Do they need it?” How I wished to have some of those loved ones back; I’d trade any “perfect gift” to sit and chat with each of them one more time. So, again I thought and said out loud, “Sure, why not? Let’s just choose a time and date for doing something fun all together. I’d rather spend time with you gals, most of us have everything we need anyway.” (They picked a Spartan Race, by the way, so they’re either trying to keep me healthy or kill me – that’s to be determined.)
We all have images that pop in our mind about how the holiday “should,” go and often times our memories of years gone by stray far from the images we create, like a self preserving amnesia of sorts. The images seemingly similar to the eerie glow of a Norman Rockwell image that is a somewhat out-of-reach-reality on the screen playing in our minds eye. Perhaps you have the perfect family, yet if you are like many, we have grown through many experiences that are far less than perfect. So isn’t it time to make yourself happy this holiday season? At least one person is guaranteed to come through all the celebrations still celebrating and greeting the New Year with cheer if you focus on your own healthy happiness.
This holiday season, choose to spend your most valuable asset – your time – wisely. Time is the one thing we can not get more of or make more of, so when you are planning the holiday happenings here are some tips to successfully navigate the inevitable and avoid the emotional hangover.
Make up your mind. Choose what would make your holiday tap into the reason for the season’s “togetherness” with those whom you love and who are reciprocal in their expression of love toward you. Make up your mind to gravitate at the holiday gathering to that one relative who perhaps sits quietly out of the chaos and get to know something you’ve yet to learn about them.
Make efforts to detach with love. Often gatherings of so many personalities can stir up uneasy feelings. People hear something said in jest and they offend themselves. That’s right, we offend ourselves. Words hold no power over us unless we let them. Make up your mind not to be offended, detach with love. Do not listen to Aunt So&So’s passive aggressive comment or Grandpa’s reminiscing about when he was your age that comes across as a shaming of sorts. People who consciously or unconsciously engage in patterns that are offensive must not be given the power to hold your heart in a vice grip. Instead love them and let them and their ignorant comments go in love with grace and ease and excuse yourself if things get to be too much. Go help with the dishes, take out a bag of garbage, or take a walk around the block.
Make little tokens of your thoughtfulness (tot). Whoever said you have to break the bank, or run up the credit card every year so you spend the rest of the year in debt just to do it all again. Make a tot yourself. Some examples would be handmade card, coupons for getting together and doing something with that other person on another day after the hoopla, help clean a garage, have a cup of coffee, walk and talk, bake, watch a movie, grab a bite to eat, etc. Think about it, when was the last time you’ve seen some of these folks anyway. What better gift than setting that time and date right there, right then when they open your card with that coupon in it. You can even treat, at least then you can pace out the presents instead of obligatorily throwing your whole paycheck out the window for one day on people you may not see till the next year. If they don’t get together with you, don’t get offended. Their loss.
Make a moderate experience. You have no power over anyone but yourself. So moderate your food and beverage intake, especially if you find yourself filling the glass with Christmas Cheer one too many times. You don’t want to end up trapped there all night if things get too out of hand, nor do you want to be the one others are having to detach themselves from. Be the change, even if you are the zebra among the pink elephants.
Make a move. When you feel like you’ve maxed out on the holiday happenings, graciously thank the host for having you and excuse yourself. You are not a prisoner or a child forced to sit in captivity. Gift yourself with knowing when you’ve had enough and exit to your own home’s haven.
Holidays can be stressful, fun, reminiscent worthy memories, if you gift yourself with the permission to take care of your own needs, set the example of self care, and make memories with this Holiday Mindset.
Jacqueline Muller, LCSW-R is Clinical Director and Owner of Dynamic Intervention Wellness Solutions. She is a NY State Licensed Clinical Social Worker, with a Master’s Degree in Clinical Social Work and post graduate certifications as an EMDR practitioner and Reiki Master Teacher.