Magazine ads, commercials, and songs lead us to believe that the holiday season is “the most wonderful time of the year.” We expect happiness, abundance, and joyful family togetherness. But this season often brings a mix of feelings and experiences. Even families that look perfect from the outside have conflicts, sorrow, and sometimes a lack of real connection. So, to enjoy your holiday season more fully, with whatever is happening in your life and your family, start with thinking about what you most need and want.
The pandemic has brought increased awareness about connections for nearly everyone. Unfortunately, most people have missed connections, had too much contact, or some of both. In this holiday season, reflect on what you have learned about yourself and your relationships during the pandemic.
Consider the following questions: What connections nourish you — with yourself and others? What do you most need or want regarding your relationships this year? Which of your needs or wants are you willing to negotiate on, and which are non-negotiable?
Start by clarifying what you want. Then, express your wishes when you can. Next, listen to the needs and wants of your family members or friends. Where your wishes differ, negotiate to get some of what you value. Discuss how you can honor some of the desires of people close to you. Everyone may not get all of what they want, but everyone should get some of their wishes.
During the pandemic, you may have learned, for instance, that you prefer more time alone. If so, consider arranging time in smaller groups or find a way to have some solitude amid big family gatherings. You might negotiate to meet for part of the day, such as gathering for dessert or appetizers rather than spending the whole day together.
On the other hand, if the pandemic has kept you from gathering with family or friends, you may realize that you value the time together more than you thought. Think about how to maximize the time with family or friends and give yourself that gift when you can.
Perhaps, instead, you do not have close family nearby. If so, this can be a tough time of year. Consider planning a gathering with a friend. Or, explore what else would feel good to you. For example, plan a memorable day trip or do something for someone else who is alone, such as delivering a meal.
If you experience stress due to conflicts, expectations, or demands within your family, find ways to nourish yourself during these gatherings. For example, taking a break for a walk, either alone or with someone you enjoy, can help. If you’re traveling, staying at a hotel (if you can afford it) rather than staying with family can give you needed time apart.
Some families have had painful losses since the last holiday gathering. Rather than ignoring the pain, create a ritual to honor the loss together. For example, light a candle for the person, have a moment of silence, or invite family members to share memories. While suggesting this may initially be uncomfortable, it will likely feel better than not sharing it.
This time of year can also be difficult for people who have financial hardships, with an emphasis on gifts and materialism. If this includes you, look for simple ways to give something of yourself. Handmade gifts or gifts of time can mean a lot. Explore taking the risk of asking for help from someone who can provide it. Or, if you have abundance, allow yourself the joy of sharing it.
Asserting your wishes, requests, and choices may involve taking risks. Not everyone will like or approve of you when you do. You may need to accept disappointing people some of the time. Aim to release guilt if someone tries to place this on you. When you clarify what you want and need, you can usually negotiate to get at least some of it.
However you spend these days, remember this is the darkest, coldest time of year in the northern hemisphere. You likely need extra rest. Be sure to prioritize self-care, including rest, exercise, healthy eating (not overeating!)