People have a lot of love for the holidays. This love cascades across the globe, across ages, genders, race, and more. This holiday love is spectacular and makes a lot of people happy, for some even their happiest and most wonderful time of the year.
But not me.
For me, it's the most painful and brutal time of the year.
OK, that might be a little dramatic, but for the most part, I dread the month of December. I adore Thanksgiving and all it stands for, but as far as I am concerned, you can fast forward me right into January. I could list all the reasons why, but that list would be far too long. Just to give you a taste though, here are a few of my personal favorites as to why it's just not for me:
The stress of shopping and getting the "perfect" gift
Extra family time with all the "extra"
Too much sugar
Forced niceties and superficiality
Etc., etc., etc.
And on top of that, I feel like the odd duck out this time of year being the only single person in my family and in my friend circle. And just to be clear, this is something that I ONLY struggle with this time of year. It creeps into my sense of belonging and feelings of worth which does not feel good, does not bring me joy, and is unproductive.
Now, I am getting pretty vulnerable here and I am sure that I am a minority in my lack of love for the holiday season. But I also know that I am not alone. While the reasons may be different, there are people out there who just don't love December.
So if you're like me and the holiday season is NOT the most wonderful time of the year, personally or professionally, I want to offer you some tools to put your mind (and of course your heart) at ease. Because the mind is a powerful thing and that old saying "mind over matter" can change the game for you (and for me) this holiday season. So here are some tips on how to use your mind to reclaim December as the most wonderful time, or at least one that you can tolerate and survive with ease.
The Survival Guide
The Reframe: rather than seeing what you don't have, or what you don't like, focus on the opposite. It is easy to stay in the darkness and heaviness and when in that place, our focus stays there shining a light on more of what is not working for us. Rather than that, focus on what you do have, what good can come out of a situation, how you can learn or grow, or how you can support someone else. By shifting our focus and attention away from that "glass half empty" we can start to see the "glass half full" giving us more energy and mental ability to thrive.
Set Baby Goals: "when the going gets tough, the tough get going". The same holds true here. When it's tough, painful, challenging, etc. consider taking one small step forward. Set one small goal for yourself for that family Christmas party or company holiday gathering (like going for an hour, talking to that one cousin, etc.). Achieve that goal, reward yourself, and then choose what's next. These small wins can give us motivation and inspiration along the way too.
Give Yourself Grace: even though the holidays come with a great deal of obligation and "extra", that doesn't mean that you have to do it or feel bad about it. Taking care of yourself is imporant and if something hurts you more than helps you, consider whether you want to continue that behavior. If you do, how can you do it in a safer way for yourself? For example, maybe you don't have to stay the whole day at Grandma's house...maybe an hour or two is enough to show up for your family and take care of yourself at the same time. Same for team holiday parties - you can show up but don't have to stay the entire time. And in that extra time, you can do something special for yourself - read a book, take a bath, workout, etc. Whatever will make you feel good and cared for.
Get Ahead of Your Emotions: knowing that the holidays can stir up emotions for some of us, use some of your best coping mechanisms to get ahead of it versus dealing with it after the fact. This might include doing some mindfulness exercises, utilizing breathing techniques, jouraling, affirmations, exercising your gratitude practice, talk to your partner or best friend, and more. You know yourself best and if you haven't found ways to effectively manage your emotions, we can share more details on any and all of these approaches for you too. (And as a leader, you might have team members struggling with their emotions too, so consider how to help them get ahead and manage their emotions effectively as well.)
Create Boundaries: or even new rules for yourself. These might be setting a framework for how long you'll stay somewhere, what types of conversations you will (or won't) participate in, behaviors you want to embrace (or avoid), etc. These boundaries or rules will help you stay in a more carefully managed headspace ensuring that you are not lost in the mix of a complex season.
Shift the Activity: if there is a particular holiday event or tradition that is a trigger for you, consider doing something else instead or in addition to. Create your own / new traditions, volunteer, take a walk, do an arts and crafts exercise to tap into your creative side, etc. You have the power to make the decisions here and sometimes that means changing things up.
Use the Time for Reflection: the holiday season can have a whole host of complex emotions, difficult feelings, disconnects, etc. and all of our associations are valid. Rather than go into "fix it" mode, consider reflecting on why you feel this way or what is under the surface. Ask why many times over. Reflect on your year as a whole and what this bookend month really means for you (or what you want it to mean). Use this time to better yourself and your future by developing greater insights to who you are and what you want for yourself.
While the holidays offer bonding, joy, merriment and more...they can also create stress, elevate complex emotions, and be exhausting too. Regardless of whether you are a fan of - or against - these survival tips can be helpful for anyone. We hope that you found this valuable and welcome your additions for ways that you not only survive, but thrive through the holiday season.
If you want a little extra support or need someone in your corner, the WeInspireWe team is here for you. Schedule your free session today.
Tami Chapek is the CEO, Founder and Head Coach at WeInspireWe. Tami believes in community and positive change and has dedicated her life to bringing these concepts together. By empowering one, we empower many - and she believes that answer starts within.