The holidays can be stressful. Often, there’s a lot to do and a lot to buy and a lot of people to see. Sometimes we get so busy we have a hard time enjoying events that we’re otherwise looking forward to. This year that is not the case. This year we would do anything to have that usual Christmas holiday stress. This year, we don’t have the whole family coming round, we are not cooking for 20 and we don’t have numerous places to go to. Yet this holiday season has been the most stressful of all. The worry about our loved ones whom we can’t be with at the moment, has been unbearable.
Below are two tips to make this week more manageable:
1. Accept that the holidays will probably be disappointing
Acceptance is a strangely effective strategy for feeling happier and more relaxed at any time of the year. When we accept a person or a situation we find challenging, we let go of the resistance that creates stress and tension. There’s a lot of truth to the adage that “what we resist, persists.”
Here’s how this works. When someone or something is being a pain in your rear, take a deep breath and accept the situation. Say to yourself something like, “I accept that this person is upset right now or “I allow this situation to be as it is.” Then notice how you are feeling, and accept how you are feeling, as well.
Criticism, judgment, rumination, blaming, denial, and avoidance are almost like holiday rituals for some of us most years but ‘Covid Christmas’ seems to have all of us criticising, judging and blaming more than ever. Although they are all tactics of resistance, they won’t protect you from the disappointing feeling of this year’s holiday season. Ironically, these tactics will allow the disappointments or difficulties to further embed themselves into your psyche.
This is a long-winded way of pointing out that resistance doesn’t make us less stressed or more joyful in difficult situations. What does work is to simply accept that the circumstance is currently hard. We can accept a difficult situation, and still make an effort to improve things. This gentle acceptance does not mean that you are resigned to a miserable holiday, or that nothing you do will make the situation better. Maybe it will get better, and maybe it won’t.
Accepting the reality of a difficult situation allows us to soften. This softening opens the door to our own compassion and wisdom and we all know that over the holidays, we are going to need those things.
2. Let go of expectations while turning your attention to what you appreciate
Some people (myself included) suffer from what I think of as an abundance paradox: Because we have so much, it becomes easy to take our good fortune for granted. As a result, we are more likely to feel disappointed when we don’t get what we want than to feel grateful when we do.
This tendency can be especially pronounced during the holidays, when we tend to have high hopes that everything will be perfect and wonderful and memorable. You might have a fantasy that this pandemic will disappear overnight, for instance, or grand ideas about the perfect New Years Eve. This sort of hope can be a slippery slope to unhappiness. Hoping a holiday event will be the best-ever can quickly become a feeling that we won’t be happy unless it is, leading to sadness and disappointment when reality doesn’t live up to our ideal.
Unfortunately, the reality of the holidays is unlikely to ever outdo our fantasies of how great everything could be. So the trick is to ditch our expectations and instead notice what is actually happening in the moment. And then find something about that moment to appreciate.
Can you appreciate that your spouse decided to cook or clean the house this week? Do you feel grateful that you have enough food for the holiday week, or that you managed to grab the last Waitrose delivery slot? Are you thankful for your health (or if your health is not great, that you are still here)?
It’s enough to notice and appreciate the small things, but when I’m having trouble with this, I like to practice an extreme form of gratitude that involves contemplating how fleeting our lives may be. There’s nothing like listening to the news at the moment to make us appreciate our lives and hone in on the good things. This will increase our gratitude.
As the holiday comes to an end, we will likely feel less stressed and exhausted and more excited about saying hello to the new year. There is no doubt that there will be a united feeling on a global scale of relief, to walk out the door of 2020 and never look back.
The new year may we will all see abundance of love and connection on a social level like never before. A new type of appreciation will be born and it will be one of hugs, kisses and affection.
We can find joy this season even if the holiday doesn’t live up to our expectations, because we know what’s to come. Things can only get better.
We have all suffered this year but some more than others and I send all good wishes.
Happy New Year
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