The holidays can be a challenging time of the year.
Between cooking for everyone, opening your home to family and friends, buying presents, and being around a mix of people, it sometimes feels like a big list of duties and obligations, rather than a time to enjoy yourself.
It’s also a (potentially dangerous) cocktail of family stories, new in-laws, different values, and crying babies. Pressure is high, alcohol is the main guest at every meal, and none of this is helping the underlying tensions.
We might feel like we’re out of time and space, in a bubble, separated from our usual life, and the temptation to escape will certainly cross our mind more than once. So, what about trying something different this year?
I have gathered 10 reminders that I hope will help us view this time from a different angle and motivate us to take a more proactive approach when it comes to surviving and thriving during the holidays.
1. People change.
We often define our attitude toward other people depending on our past experiences, past interactions, and expected behaviours, but is that fair? Imagine if your family was stuck with this image of you during your grunge period, dressed in black and getting drunk with your cousins. Would you expect them to take you seriously now, while you’re talking about the stock options included in your new job’s compensation package?
How can you expect people to acknowledge how much you’ve grown when they are not given a fair shot to show it for themselves? How, and how often, do you update your vision of the people closest to you? Talk to them with an open mind, have a real discussion, listen attentively (and not for the sake of responding), then you can make up your mind on who they are as a human being in this moment.
2. Stay connected with who you are.
Usually, you’re up early to start your morning ritual. You pay attention to your food intake, exercise, stand up for yourself, and know your values. Then, all of a sudden, none of that matters until January 2nd?
Don’t get me wrong: I do understand the appeal of chocolates, warm blankets, and cheesy movies on a cold winter day, but does it have to be a complete two weeks of blacking out on our needs and routine? Don’t make the holidays a pause in your life, in everything you believe, and in everything that is important for you—you still exist during this time! Learn how to treat yourself while keeping your everyday positive habits.
3. Do what you can.
The holidays are a period where we are supposed to give—emotionally, mentally, and financially. Unfortunately, it’s rarely the best time for us to do so, and that’s fine.
The key here is to do the best we can—no more, no less. Tight with money? Crafty presents it is. You can also contribute to the festivities differently if you have more free time this year. Arrive earlier to holiday celebrations and give the hosts a hand. Can’t cope with all the stress? This is not a resilience game where the toughest win in the end: give yourself a break, go outside, talk to someone outside the situation, catch up with colleagues or friends, and remind yourself that the real world is still out there.
4. Stop comparing your life.
A few hours in and you’ve already learned that cousin Suzanne is getting married, your sister Julie is pregnant with her second child, and John was just made partner in his law firm while you desperately try to think of a big accomplishment for yourself. So far, all you can think of is that your goldfish is still alive and you made your first charity donation this year.
So what? Every journey is different! Maybe it will take more time for you, maybe it will never happen because something way bigger is waiting for you—who knows? Just be happy for people, genuinely congratulate them, and don’t forget about all the things you can be grateful for in your own life (at the very least: a pet and a tax deduction).
5. Stop justifying yourself.
When Suzanne made her big wedding announcement, Aunt Sally turned to you and asked, “What about you love? What are you waiting for to settle down?”And there you are, caught like a deer in the headlights, stammering uncertainly, “I’m dating” or, “It’s a jungle out there.”
Please stop justifying yourself. Instead, use some fatal weapons like a big smile, a positive attitude, and sentences that end discussions like: “My life is already exciting enough as it is,” or, “My job is just a way to support my dreams. I have a bigger plans in the background.” The end.
6. Focus on who you want to spend time with.
You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. True. However, you can choose who deserves your time, attention, and affection within it.
If some members are giving you their usual passive aggressive dish, step away and focus on more potential fulfilling exchanges. Seek out people who make you feel good, get to know new members of the family, or spend some quality time with kids or pets instead—they never fail to provide unconditional love.
7. Create new habits with your family.
Every year, it’s the same routine: you stuff yourselves like pigs, roll on the sofa in front of the TV, and stay there, in food coma, until people slowly start to make their way back home. And every year this is the part of the holidays you find the most useless and meaningless.
Well, change it then. Propose an activity this year: crafts, sports, music, games, anything you feel could fit in. Create new traditions—there are, more than likely, other family members on the sofa who are hoping for a change but would never dare initiate it themselves.
8. Stay in a place of love (literally).
During the holidays, you probably stay in a place you grew up in, or at least a place where you spent some time as a child. If those were happy times, good for you—be prepared for a heart-warming nostalgia session. But if those places remind you of difficult or toxic episodes, stepping up to the porch and opening the door can be enough to open a box of unwanted memories that will play in your head for the next two weeks.
So consider choosing a new location for holiday fun. Accept that invitation from your aunt or cousin who you rarely see. Or if you don’t have any relatives around, opt for the neutral set up of a Bed & Breakfast. Doing so will provide you a peaceful oasis where you will be able to recharge your batteries and spend some time alone, so you can show up refreshed and energized to the next family gathering.
9. Continue meditating.
The temptation to forget about healthy habits during the holidays is huge. But if there’s one practice I would recommend you keep at any cost, it’s meditation. If you practice regularly, you already know that this is the ultimate tool to help us take a step back, think straight, manage our emotions, and get rid of stress—all of which are much needed during the end of the year.
Never tried meditation? No problem! Find yourself a quiet room and some relaxing music, and give yourself 10 minutes to focus on your breathing until you feel more relaxed.
10. Exercise and get out in nature.
Instead of approaching this period as a stressful one, what about seeing it as what it is in reality: a holiday, an opportunity to do what you don’t do usually. And, I don’t know about you, but being in nature and exercising are two things that regularly end up at the bottom of my to-do list. Use your time off around the holidays to take a walk, head outside with your pets, go running, spend some time in the woods or the seaside (if you are lucky to have any around), and take every chance to reconnect with your body and your soul.
This year, I would love if we could use the holidays as a moment of deep connection with the people we care about, in all consciousness of who we respectively are, far away from all the glitter and credit card debt. By doing so, we could give ourselves an incredible gift of healing and growing before welcoming all the opportunities the new year has to offer.