I don’t know about
you, but I’ve been receiving many messages about ways to ‘survive’ the
holidays, as if the holidays were a war zone or a deadly plague. Certainly
buying thoughtful gifts, cooking big dinners and sending greeting cards is not
lethal. In fact, it’s supposed to be the “most wonderful time of the year.” But
for some people, the dashed expectations and roller coaster emotions can
provoke intense stress to the point of a panic attack.
Some of my clients
dread going home for the holidays because of the family gatherings and the
‘inevitable’ unresolved and perennial conflicts that occur. Others have high
expectations of Christmas or memories of dashed expectations of Christmases
past. The current one just never seems to measure up, they say to themselves.
It’s just not like it used to be. Of course it isn’t. How could we exactly
reproduce an experience from the past? Scientists haven’t yet figured out how
to clone experiences.
theory reveals that our thoughts create our emotional state. Therefore, if we
can control our thoughts, we can also control our emotions. Controlling our
thoughts takes a bit of practice however. It takes constant awareness of what
we are experiencing from the inside out. The distractions around us make this
difficult. Meditation is one way of focusing on what’s inside.
So at this point in
your preparations, three days before Christmas, take some time to become still
inside. Become aware of your expectations of what you would like to happen.
Even if it’s only for a few moments before you fall asleep, tune into what
really matters for the next few days. Prioritize the things you would like to
accomplish or the people with whom you really want to spend some quality time,
and let go of the rest. Tomorrow is another day.
But don’t take my word
for it. Check out some of these Holiday Survival Guides to help you navigate the emotional waterways of the holidays.
- About.com gives a wide array of advice on eliminating some of the stress
that comes with holiday cards, meals, parties, shopping and family gatherings.
- Here’s another
survival guide from a runner’s point of view in Runner’s World Magazine.
- The American Chiropractic Association gives advice on how to keep your body aligned during long hours of shopping.
- Here’s a great
collection of articles containing holiday advice for step families from The
- Kiplinger provides tips to help
keep your holiday spending under control.
- If you are a caregiver, here are some good suggestions for managing family visitors from Caregiving.com.
- Dr. Wayne Dyer helps you keep positive intentions about family gatherings in Natural Health Magazine.
- The 50+ community, Grownups, gives good advice on reducing holiday stress.
- A marriage and family therapist in Ontario writes about maintaining your relationship in Canadian Living.
David Schiesher is a psychotherapist practicing in Geneva.