It’s that time of year again. Yes, the holiday season, as it’s called, is upon us. What a wonderful time of the year!
For many people, though, it can be stressful, chaotic, and downright “depressing”. There are many expectations and obligations to meet, parties to attend, and gifts to buy. Then there’s all the eating and drinking, and for some, the holidays means traveling as well.
Because of this, it is important to plan out your holiday season, looking first at the big picture and putting things in the proper perspective; which are essential since the details of the season can be “overwhelming” - if overwhelm is part of your vocabulary (see transformational vocabulary for a great way to reduce stress and anxiety during the holidays - and anytime of the year).
To further reduce that stress, it’s important to assess individual needs, desires, and influences as related to creating the best holiday season possible. To do that, start with asking yourself two basic questions:
- What makes the holidays stressful, difficult, and/or “unhappy”?
- What do I – or could I – love about the holidays?
If you answer these two questions honestly for yourself, you will have a great start to making this holiday season happier. That’s because the answers to these two questions will help you better understand the specific issues which represent pain (question #1) and pleasure (question #2) during the holiday season so you can more easily create a plan to address them (see below for a simple and useful "Holiday Happiness Planner"). Make a list of your answers and notice some of the feelings and emotions you experience as you write down those answers.
When you notice how you feel in response to the various issues you write down, it can help you realize how your negative emotional responses to the crowds, the parties, and all the other “frustrations” associated with the holidays may be overblown. If you're guilty of this, again, make sure to use transformational vocabulary as one of your Holiday Happiness tools.
Some common answers to those two questions are:
Question #1 (What makes the holidays stressful, difficult, and/or “unhappy”?):
- Too many expectations and obligations
- It’s gotten too commercial
- The true meaning has been lost
- It's too expensive
- There are too many people to please
- The shopping malls and stores get too crazy
- There are too many parties to attend
- I eat too much
- I gain weight
- I drink too much
- I’m alone
- I work during the holidays
- My [family member, friend, spouse] is gone and I miss them even more
Question #2 (What do I – or could I – love about the holidays?):
- The opportunity to connect with friends and family
- The chance to brighten people’s life by giving
- Remembering the meaning of the season
- Connection with family and friends
- Great memories from childhood
- The food (turkey and stuffing, pies, etc.)
- The shopping
- The parties
- Getting some great gifts
- Going to church, the synagogue, etc.
- Christmas carols
- Time off from work
- The weather at this time of year
- The chance to reflect on what life is all about
- The holiday lights
It’s important to think about the answers to these questions during this time of year – and use them to create a “Holiday Happiness Plan” for yourself which minimizes the negatives (answers to question 1) and expands the positives (answers to question 2).
Click here to open up a copy of a “Holiday Happiness Planner” template to get started with the process. There are also some commercial products to help organize your holidays better. Click here to check one out.
At a minimum, here are a few basic tips for a happier, less stressful holiday season:
- Again, make a plan. It is critical to plan out the holiday season for things to go smoothly. Write it out. Use a “holiday organizer and planner” as suggested. Anticipate the common problems and issues that arise during this time of year and include solutions in your plan.
- Keep the real meaning of the season in mind. The holidays are about relationships and being grateful for “life”. It’s not about the parties and presents. Make sure to keep this in perspective.
- Manage your stress proactively and allow for down time. Use stress-management techniques during the holidays. Continue your exercise program. Create an eating plan so you don’t gain lots of weight. Make sure you have time planned out that isn’t “scheduled”. Take time to relax. Read, go for a walk, take a nap, or whatever helps you “chill out”.
- Establish a budget. Don’t overspend. Remember point #2. Plan your gift giving, create a budget and stick to it. For example, it may have made sense to exchange gifts with extended family members when the children were young. When they are older, though, consider exploring other options - like exchanging names and sticking to price limits to ease everyone’s time pressures and budgets.
- Work together. Divide up the tasks that have to be done among family and friends (shopping, cooking, decorating, etc.). Don’t feel you have to do it all.
Then, above all else … BE GRATEFUL. This is the cornerstone of happiness at any time of the year. Take the time to appreciate what you have right now! Enjoy the holiday season. Make it “simple”, happy, joyful, fulfilling, and memorable.
BeHappy! my friends