Whether you’re a die-hard Festive Season fan or someone who just wants to get it over with, the holidays are full of stress-inducing moments.
As kids, my family was generally on the move in one way or another. All part of being a military family. Dad was going to a new job and/or we were off to visit family, who was not usually close by.
Things didn’t change much for me as an adult, because I too ended up in the military and with a military partner.
What I have learned over the years, is you can make it fun, or you can make it stressful, its all.
1. Vision – Picture the Festive Season you want to have and set the intention.
It’s all in your hands, you can make it easy, or you can make it hard.
The reality is, that when the extended family gets together, chances are things may go off the rails. Especially after a few drinks, or more than a few days.
What are the values you want to experience? Eg Joy, Peace, Connection, Fun,
Establish those along with your intentions for the season, and they can provide you a touch stone for when things may go off the rails.
We all have family members that are like fish, they go off after a few days. With intention we can usually manage to be civil or limit exposure to them even with the most difficult of relatives for a few days.
As humans, what we focus on, to the exclusion of anything else, is what we get. The problem is, we tend to focus on what we “don’t” want. That then tends to become our reality, because we make decisions based around controlling the outcome, that tend to create the outcome we don’t want.
(If you are in the middle of a relocation cycle – be ok to make adjustments)
2. Be Mindful – Your attitude creates your reality.
Keep your intentions you created for your experience front of mind.
Accept that the only thing you can control is your reaction. Avoid getting caught in other people’s whirlwinds.
(Hint- also have self-care planned. If you need time to revive, have an exit plan, even if it’s your partner -or someone- gives you a few minutes to escape to somewhere quiet.)
3. Keep it simple
There can be a huge temptation to make things a big performance. Especially if caught in competing host or gifts land.
The problem is that only adds to the stress because we have no control over all the moving parts, or what other people say or do.
Amongst the things we’ve adopted over the years is to have as much of the day prepared ahead of time. Including food. No one wants to spend the day in the kitchen, especially if there is fun to be had.
Spread the load – ask for help.
4. Manage expectations.
If you are planning a low key, simple, budget friendly Festive Season, make that clear ahead of time.
We found that by doing a little bit of expectation management ahead of time, people came on board and also contributed ideas to make it work even better.
Even when the kids were little, we tried to avoid the lots of gifts expectations that kids can get. We also set a ceiling that Santa only comes till you are 10 years old. In our family it was a rite of passage to get past the Santa stage. (not that there weren’t gift exchanges, but they tended to be based on more intimate grounds rather than expecting everyone to give something to all the attendees)
As adults, we’ve set limits on amounts to spend on gifts, and had Kris Kringle or Secret Santa that keeps the festivity going, without it being a huge expense. Even more relevant when the extended family gets together.
Brief that Grandparents. Sometimes in their enthusiasm, they can go over the top and either overwhelm the children with gifts, and/or overspend their budget.
(Hint – It can be worth figuring out what people’s love languages are, because not everyone appreciates gifts the same way or in the same form. One of the most thoughtful things we can do is deliver our love in the way they notice, not the way we think they should notice).
5. Be grateful.
Gratitude has a way of shifting perspectives.
Be grateful for the opportunity to see those you can. Even your less than favourites, it makes spending time with others even more rewarding.
Make connection your number one priority. Assume best intentions first.
Most people are doing the best they know how with the skills and capacity they have in the moment. The more we can accept them as and where they are, the easier and more joyful our experiences can be.
6. Have Healthy Boundaries
That means knowing the edges of your world, without overstepping someone else’s.
Not always easy when those someone else’s are used to trampling over ours, particularly when it comes to family.
Be ok when other’s get uncomfortable, though be gracious and compassionate too.
7. If all else fails, you don’t have to go.
In many families, what happens is we get caught in what we believe we are supposed to do. What will “other people think” if we don’t?Well what if you know things are unlikely to bode well, then why get yourself bent out of shape to make other people “happy”, if you know that won’t work for you.It’s all about what is MOST important about how you want to experience your Festive Season, set back at Tip #1.
You are enough, they are worthy and we all belong
That doesn’t mean we have to do everything that is expected, unless is aligns to us.
You’ve got this.