How to Navigate Expectations During the Holidays

It’s November and the holidays have kicked into full swing. This is a time of fun, family, connections, parties, gifts, laughter, love…. And complete dread! Like most American’s I approach this time of year with a happy sense of nostalgia coupled with a sinking feeling I can not live up to the expectations that I have put on myself.

It used to be that November and December were the only stressful months to prepare for, but now Halloween is a full-blown affair, oh and let’s not forget New Year’s Eve. Yikes, that is a bunch of festivities jammed into the last three months of the year. We are right in the thick of the season. Are you wondering how you are going to survive the next 6 weeks of fun, feasting, and fear without becoming a hermit or the Grinch? I might not have all of the answers, but this is where I start when I need to center myself during this wonderfully crazy season.

Just say no

Start with boundaries. Repeat after me, I can not do it all. Not only is it impossible to do it all it is also no fun. Instead of running around trying to make everyone happy focus on the events that are both necessary and the most fulfilling. If you are not used to setting boundaries this may be the year to slowly ease into the new practice. Your boundary muscle is not that strong yet, so don’t try to overdo it. Maybe look at each week and see if you can eliminate one task, event or chore. Just saying no once can start to make a small difference and adding to this practice will make a big difference over time.

If you are ready to go big you can attempt to boycott some of the holidays. I know of a few brave friends that have decided to redefine Christmas. After years of family discord, chaotic schedules, and frequent frustration, this couple has started to go away on a romantic tropical getaway during Christmas. They have reclaimed and redefined what the holidays mean for them. Now instead of dread, they are looking forward to this time of year. What boundaries big or small can you set in order to find more joy this season?

Laugh it off

This is a time for fun and love, so try to be funloving and laugh at life. We all have experienced situations that feel embarrassing or devastating in the moment that once we put it into perspective we are able to laugh about it. Remember that this time of year and allow yourself to laugh at life. Another way to introduce laughter into life is to watch a good comedy like Christmas Vacation, or a comedian on Youtube, read the comics, giggle with your best friend. Laugher does more than just lighten the mood. According to helpguide.org laughter really is the best medicine:

  • Laughter relaxes the whole body
  • Laughter boosts the immune system
  • Laughter triggers the release of endorphins
  • Laughter protects the heart
  • Laughter burns calories
  • Laughter lightens anger’s heavy load
  • Laughter may even help you to live longer

Understand the intent 

Most people don’t mean to hurt you. In fact, whenever someone does something that hurts, it usually has more to do with them than you. We live very complex lives with so many responsibilities. Inside us all is a world of chatter that usually begins and ends with “I” and “me.” Not that this is inherently bad, it’s just normal. 

-I need to do this…

-I should have done that…

-Did I hurt her feelings?

-Is he upset with me?

-Why am I always…

-I can’t get this all done!

-What am I going to make for dinner?

You get the picture. Imagine now that this is going on in EVERYONE’S mind, not just yours. I am not saying this to minimize the fact there are real moments of pain caused by people in our lives who intentionally mean to hurt us. I am speaking to the million little misunderstandings that rain down on you during the crazy holiday season. So, next time an encounter with someone feels awkward and offensive take a step back and ask yourself if you fully understand the intent behind the moment and maybe give them the benefit of the doubt. 

Take a deep breath

There is an old zen teaching that says, “You should meditate for 20 minutes every day, and if you are too busy for 20 minutes, meditate for an hour.” Slowing down long enough to quiet the mind and put life into perspective. Meditation like laughter has many health benefits. According to healthline.com there are science-based benefits of meditation:

  • Reduces Stress
  • Controls Anxiety
  • Promotes Emotional Health
  • Enhances self-awareness
  • Lengthens attention span
  • Improves sleep
  • Helps control pain… just to name a few

If you are not familiar with meditation and would like to try it out check out these apps:

Take one day at a time and don’t get stuck 

Just the other day I was indulging in a piece of Dove dark chocolate when I discovered my new personal motto. You see, Dove is genius because they put little quotes from customers on their wrappers. It’s on the inside so you have to actually open the chocolate to enjoy the cute insight inside. It’s kind of like a fortunate cookie. So, Hayleigh from South Dakota had the most amazing quote to pass along. 

When life doesn’t go right, go left. 

-Dove Chocolate

It is both brilliant and funny. I know most, if not all, of you reading know what it feels like when life doesn’t go right. It’s not just hard it’s sad, frustrating and scary. But instead of going left when life isn’t going right we tend to stop, stare and get stuck wondering why we can’t go right. It’s ok to feel sadness, anger, frustration and all of those other unpopular feelings when life gets you down, or the holidays are a disaster. In fact, bottling up your emotions won’t help you either. The key is to not get stuck in the quicksand of self-judgment, unforgiveness, and shame.  This time of year can be a minefield for the potential of getting stuck. And if you do, don’t get down on yourself. Just remember that it is ok to admit you aren’t perfect and have it all together. That is all of us, and it takes courage to seek support and help when you do get stuck. So remember, if you are stuck and you need help getting out of that quicksand of life reach out for a supportive hand and get your life back on track. 

 

1 thought on “How to Navigate Expectations During the Holidays”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top