Focusing on wellbeing this holiday season
The winter holidays are upon us. By now, most people know where they will be spending the holidays. Many married couples split their holiday between families—holiday morning with one set of family members, dinner with another set. Between holiday parties, entertaining, buying gifts, and preparing for the holiday, life can be hectic.
But it can also be bittersweet. My mother had a serious heart attack at the end of a Christmas vacation and died some weeks later. While it was six years ago, I’ve had moments of intense sadness every December since. I miss her and the holiday trips she organized every year for so many years. She loved bringing her family together. Family life has changed since she passed away.
For some, the holiday season can be stressful. The media is filled with images of happy families surrounded by bounty. Commercials show off a cornucopia of gifts. What if this is a particularly hard time financially for a family? They may not be able to afford gifts and expensive entertaining. It can make parents feel bad, even ashamed that they can’t supply their children with expensive presents.
Not everyone has a great relationship with their family. In some families, there are ripples of tension that surface during holiday gatherings. These tensions can result in conflict, overindulging in alcohol, even indigestion.
It can be a lonely time for some. A recent breakup, divorce, or simply living in a new city can make the holidays painful. Some adults can’t afford to travel to visit loved ones. Loneliness can be intensified during the holiday season.
So, how can we promote holiday wellbeing?
Nurture realistic expectations. This year’s Christmas doesn't have to be the best holiday you’ve ever had. If money is tight, don’t feel compelled to pull out the plastic. Building up big credit card debt is a lousy holiday gift to give yourself. Focus on inexpensive family fun. Do you remember all the gifts you received as a child? Or do you remember the warm, loving times with family members?
Be your holiday best. If you know that uncle Joe has different political views, don’t push his buttons. Make your holiday a politics-free zone. Focus on the positive. If there are big family tensions, less is more. A conflict free holiday with fewer people is far better than a big tension-filled gathering.
Keep it simple. Figuring out what to buy dad can give you a holiday headache. Suggest a new family tradition that simplifies gift giving. My family had a holiday grab bag with a dollar limit on gifts. Everyone got a gift. Afterwards, we did a lot of horse trading. It was fun.
Take care of yourself. Treat yourself to a holiday massage. Take a candle lit bath. Take a long walk by the water. Cut back on entertaining. Go to the movies by yourself. Drink some herb tea. Say no to others and yes to yourself. Seek balance.
Focus on what’s important to you. What do the holidays mean to you? How can you make sure that you keep what’s important the main course of the holiday meal. It can be a challenge to negotiate through everyone’s expectations—but you can do it! Make this holiday work for you.