What about it? Can each of us tell ourselves the truth about what the holidays do for us and to us? Most of us will admit there is both good and not so good each year as we approach the “happiest time of the year”.Much of the distasteful part of the holidays has to do with experiences that we may have had that were negative and anxiety-ridden. The most common holiday errors start with the over-everything syndrome: over-eating, over-spending, over-obligating, over-time with family members. If we have a tendency to “lose ourselves” in everyday life we will certainly do it more in the holiday season. Most of you know my classic definition of stress. It is the distance I am from who I am. The more I forget my needs and focus on others the more distance I get from what is important to me and what I need.Of course the holidays are for giving but if we are lost in the shuffle of overdoing for others we become stressed and unable to enjoy this time of the year for ourselves.As a mental health specialist I often find myself exploring the holiday blues with some of my clients. Sometimes our journey takes us to childhood memories of parents and siblings having difficult times during the holidays. Sometimes it is about financial struggles, marital struggles between parents, alcoholism or other painful memories. If this is the case then the past can be affecting the present even if we have a hard time identifying the connection. If the holidays have been painful or depressing, it is time to change the pattern and have some fun. Here are some tips for enjoying the season.* Invest in experiences not things:
Do you know what you want for the holidays? I don’t mean gifts. I mean what is going to make you feel good? Rarely does the gift feel as good as the experience. I am reminded of a Christmas my son and I spent skiing in the mountains of Colorado. As a child it was one of his favorite things to do around the holidays and mine as well. We packed our things and met a friend at the slopes. We arrived on Christmas Eve with our bags loaded with gifts and tree decorations. We promptly went to the local market and bought a tree and set it up in our condo. Our Christmas day was spent opening presents, watching beautiful hot air balloons out our condo window, skiing, and having a Christmas dinner over looking the mountains and a Colorado sunset. I can’t help but smile when I remember that special time.Review your most memorable holidays and spend a little time crafting your perfect holiday before it starts. This will minimize the disappointments and help you to create the happy holiday for real.* Give the guilt meter a kick in the backside:I would venture to say that most people do not even know what guilt is. If you find yourself spending too much, giving too much, having visits with the family too much, or just being overwhelmed and tired with too many obligations, ask yourself if it is guilt that is driving your behavior.Sometimes I can’t believe the magnitude of personal decisions that individuals allow guilt to make for them! Understand that guilt is an emotion and that is all it is. We should always explore our emotions to see if we are allowing them to be in the decision making seat. My “Dose of Dell” about guilt just like any other powerful emotion is that it should not make decisions for us. In the case of guilt you only need enough of it to keep your clothes on in public! The rest is useless.My clients Sara and Jim had spent the last ten years driving hours to spend Christmas with their families with both sides vying for their precious holiday time. Their children who are now eight and ten had never experience Christmas in their own home but were certainly beginning to ask why. Their parents had no real answers except that “this is what we do at Christmas”. With some help Jim and Sara decided to tell the parents the truth. They really enjoyed Christmas with them and wish they could all be together however; it was time to establish new rituals and begin Christmas in their own home. This took courage and a hard look at the decisions guilt and obligation were making for themWatch yourself if you are doing things because of guilt, in the name of others and rationalizing or justifying your decisions. No one you love wants you to always put your own needs on the back burner or to go into debt to give them the right gift. Even though they may “guilt-trip” you into doing it their way, it is still your responsibility to break out of the guilt trap and make a different game plan. Decisions made out of guilt and obligation are a setup for holiday happiness destruction. Give yourself a good guilt make over. Get help if you need it but stop the guilt treadmill if you want to enjoy the holidays.* Settle for what is good enough:So we might not have the perfect Christmas but what about a good enough Christmas? If you design your ideal holiday and then scale down to what is good enough you might find yourself able to stop and enjoy the holiday journey. If you are a perfectionist this will be hard.
Can you tell your family and friends the truth about your limitations of time, money, or other resources such as your energy, your desires, your own interests? Can you find a way to put yourself at the top of the list in the holiday planning?I wanted to make a special holiday dip to take to my hostess’ house for Thanksgiving dinner. At the last minute on Thanksgiving morning I found myself running around in a frenzy looking for the last of the ingredients to make the dip. Nothing was really open that had the specialty items I needed. I stopped myself and had to laugh at my craziness! I went home and made a copy of the recipe and gave it to my host telling her that I really wanted to show up with it but didn’t. The experience was a very small reminder of the up and coming Christmas season and how easily we can get into the frenzy. We need to settle for what is good enough.It is easy to get caught up in the frenzy of the holiday moment without thinking through what will matter in the big picture. Will the spending be a burden on you later? Will the gift be forgotten in the midst of all the others? Will you live with regret in the months to come?Train yourself to see into the future. Happiness is sometimes not about short term gratification but about long term lack of regret. Give yourself and those you love the gift of a good enough (not perfect!) holiday season, one that ensures happiness in the long term.
Dell deBerardinis is a psychotherapist in private practice in Texas. She specializes in helping people identify the roots of the problems that prevent them from living joyfully. Then she uses revolutionary techniques to help her clients free themselves from their anger, fears and anxieties!For a free phone appointment to see if you would benefit from personal consultations, call Dell at 800-393-6160. Or, you can download Dell’s THERAPY MADE SIMPLE workbook at [web: MakingTherapySimple .com].