Holidays Don’t Have to Suck

The Norman Rockwell image of Christmas is crap, at least in my experience. The idea that people can set aside their anger, pain and unresolved trauma is unrealistic. It’s a setup for disappointment.

And, swinging the pendulum in the other direction by pulling out of holiday traditions altogether can magnify our losses, rub salt in our unhealed wounds and steal all joy from this beautiful season.

There is another way. Rather than landing on the polarity of this all-or-none spectrum, practice the principle of “moving in the direction of” a holiday that has positive meaning to you. As provided in The Opposite of Burnout—5 Career Strategies to Feel Valued, Be Heard and Make a Difference, this approach involves, without pressuring yourself for perfection, simply choosing thoughts and actions that move you step-by-baby-step in the direction you want to go. Eventually, you’ll get there!

Here’s how it might look:

  1. Go to the holiday party, but with a firm after-commitment that limits your stay to a period you can truly enjoy (no matter how short).
  2. Put yourself at the top of your gift list: “To me, from me, with love!”
  3. Get outside and connect with Nature. Let her calm your mind and soothe your soul.
  4. Bring a dish to the family get-together—food you will enjoy.
  5. Craft and carry your “No.” Here’s mine, always delivered with a smile, “Thank you so much, that’s not going to work for me.”
  6. Plan your own meaningful celebration with people you like being with.
  7. Give yourself the gift of extra sleep. Challenge yourself to follow the sun’s winter cycle.
  8. Enjoy the treats of the season, without guilt or deprivation, with the 3-Bite Rule: fully, sensually, slowly savor any treat you desire for three full bites, then put down the fork.
  9. Don’t feel you have to decorate, and don’t think you have to avoid it, either. How about a wreath, plant, or candle that symbolizes what you value in the season?
  10. If it’s the adults you wish to avoid, focus your attention on the children in your world.

How can you begin to “move in the direction of” a meaningful holiday NOW? Look at your commitments and ask yourself this liberating question: What do I care about? Then, do that.

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