Crowds, traffic, inlaws, extra bills to pay – no wonder the holidays stress so many people out. If you are one of these people, you are not alone. According to some reports, up to 90% of all adults become stressed about at least one aspect of the holidays. And the holidays are especially stressful for women, who shoulder the brunt of the scheduling, planning, shopping, and cooking each year.
This year can be different. If you are ready to take your mood from stressed to holly-jolly, call on this list of radical advice for grinning all the way through your holidays, rather than grinning and bearing it from mid-November through early January
.1. Take charge. Declare yourself your life’s official cruise director. If you are waiting for others to make you happy – and feeling disappointed or resentful because they don’t try hard enough or try but miss the mark – stop. Make a bucket list for your life of everything you have always wanted to do and start checking off peak moments as soon as possible. Then, when you are done, put the whole family through the bucket-list making process. Two books by author Lara Krupicka, Bucket List Living For Moms and Family Bucket Lists, make the bucket list creation process a lively adventure the whole clan can enjoy on a chilly afternoon or evening.
2. Determine your holiday preferences. If you feel like every holiday is already planned out for you by your extended circle of family and friends, you may have never actually considered what you prefer. Choosing not to choose is actually still a choice – but not a very good one. Ask yourself the question, How do I really want to spend my holidays? And then answer it honestly. And be specific, not just vague or reacting against what you don’t want. For example, if you’d rather wake up in a ski lodge on Christmas morning and have someone else serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, so you can hit the slopes with the fam’, so be it! Contemplate what you want – what you really want – so you can share your needs honestly with others.
3. Share your vision with your immediate family. If your family loves you, and I assume they do, then your vision for the holidays matters to them. Even if they don’t share your enthusiasm for Black Friday shopping, Christmas caroling, and marathon tree decorating, everyone should be able to accommodate everyone else in the family. Who knows? Maybe by the time you are done regaling the neighborhood with “Oh, Holy Night” and “Rudolph The Red-nosed Reindeer,” everyone will be shivering and laughing in that ineffable way that makes life-long memories.
4. Give each immediate family member a chance to chime in. Okay, so you have gotten clear on the ways you enjoy spending the holidays. Now it’s time to encourage the rest of your family to share what they want. Come on now, they tolerated your eccentricities and now it’s your turn to back them up. And yes, you have to attend the sporting event with your son you could probably live without and take your daughter to see The Nutcracker Suite for the umpteenth time. You will also go to the office party with your husband. If these are the things that make the holidays magic for them, who are you to disagree?
5. Create your perfect holiday. If you can’t remember the last time you just stayed home for Christmas and unwrapped gifts from under your own tree, then maybe it’s time to simplify your Christmas without feeling like you have to apologize to the entire world. The beauty of taking charge, having personal preferences, and sharing and receiving ideas within the family is that you can now communicate what you all need to your extended family members. Yup, your family is allowed to carve out your traditions and make space to create your memories. Now that you know what they are, it’s your responsibility to follow through as best you can.
6. Communicate without guilt. Give the extended family plenty of time to accept your plans. They don’t have to like them. In fact, you might think they will never speak to you again. But part of being an adult is learning to let other people face their feelings without continually adjusting your needs to fit theirs. Guilt may have been the type of internalized shame that kept you in line in the past, but it’s time to shake off this type of programming and live the life that really makes you happy.
7. Be the change you want to see in your world. Perhaps you have heard the quote, attributed to Mahatma Ghandi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” But what he may have really said is, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.” In other words, our personal happiness does matter and the way we live does impact the world. So in claiming our joy, we make the world a more positive place, as well.
Christina Katz is an author, journalist and writing coach who has been working on developing her backbone her whole adult life. Her latest book is The Art Of Making Time For Yourself.