Christmas holidays can be a challenging time of the year: cooking for everyone, opening your house, buying presents, being around different people, it sometimes feels like a big list of duties and obligations rather than a time to enjoy yourself. It’s also a (potentially dangerous) cocktail of family stories, new in-laws, different values and crying babies. Pressure is high, alcohol is the main guest at every meal and nothing of this is helping underlying tensions.
You might feel out of time and space, like in a bubble, separated from your usual life, and the temptation to escape will certainly cross your mind more than once. So what about trying something different this year?
I have gathered below 10 tips that I hope will help you see this time from a different angle and motivate you to take a more proactive approach when it comes to family holidays.
1- People change:
We often define our attitude towards other people depending on our past experiences, past interactions and expected behaviours but…is that fair? Imagine if your family was stuck with this image of you during your grunge period, dressed in black and getting drunk with your cousins, would you think they take you seriously while you are talking about the stock options included in the compensation package of your new job? How can you expect people to acknowledge how amazing you became when they are not given a fair shot to show it for themselves? How and how often do you update your vision of the people closest to you? Talk to them with an open mind, have a real discussion, listen attentively and not for the sake of responding, then you can make up your mind on which sort of human being they are.
2- Stay connected with who you are:
Usually, you’re up early, you have a morning ritual, you pay attention to your food intake, you exercise, you stand up for yourself, you know your values and, all of the sudden, none of that matters until the 2nd of January…? Don’t get me wrong: I do understand the appeal of chocolates, warm blanket and cheesy movies on a cold winter day, but does it have to be this complete 2 weeks “you” blackout? Don’t make this a pause in your life, in everything you believe and in everything that is important for you, you still exist during this time! Learn how to treat yourself while keeping your everyday’s positive habits.
3-Do what you can:
End of the year holidays is a period where we are supposed to give, emotionally, mentally and financially. Unfortunately, it’s rarely the best time for us to do so, and that’s fine! The key here is to do the best we can, no more, no less. Tight with money? Crafty presents it is! You can also contribute to the festivities differently if you have more free time this year, arrive earlier, give the lady of the house a hand. Can’t cope with it anymore? This is not a resilience game where the toughest win in the end: give yourself a break, go outside, talk to someone external, catch up with colleagues or friends, remind yourself that there’s a life out there.
4- Stop comparing your life:
A few hours in and you have already learned that cousin Suzanne is getting married, your sister Julie is pregnant with her second child and John was just made partner in his law firm while you desperately try to think of a big accomplishment for yourself- so far you have that your goldfish is still alive and you made your first charity donation this year. And so what? Every journey is different! Maybe it will take more time for you, maybe it will never happen because something way bigger is waiting for you, who knows? Just be happy for people, genuinely congratulate them and don’t forget about all the things you can be grateful for in your own life (at the very least: a pet and a tax deduction).
5- Stop justifying yourself:
When Suzanne made her big wedding announcement, Aunt Sally turned to you and asked “What about you love, what are you waiting for to settle down?”. And there you are, caught like a deer in the headlights, stammering some uncertain “I’m dating” and others “It’s a jungle out there”. For the sake of you, please stop justifying yourself, you will do nothing but digging your own grave. Instead, use some fatal weapons like a big smile, a positive attitude and sentences that end discussions like “My life is already exciting enough as it is” or “My job is just a way to support my dreams, I have a bigger plans in the background”. The.End.
6-Focus on who you want to spend time with:
You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. True. However, you can choose who deserves your time, attention and affection within it. If some members are giving you their usual passive aggressive dish, why don’t you step away and focus on more potential fulfilling exchanges? Seek for positivity, get to know the new members of the family or spend some quality time with kids or pets instead- those 2 last categories never fail to provide unconditional love.
7- Create new habits with your family:
Every year, it’s the same: you stuff yourselves like pigs, you roll on the sofa in front of the TV and stay there, in food coma, until people slowly start to make their way back home. And every year this is the part of the holidays you find the most useless and meaningless. Well, change it then! Propose an activity this year: craft, sport, music, games, anything you feel could fit in. Go ahead and create new traditions, there are most likely other people around this sofa that are hoping for a change but never dare initiating it themselves.
8- Stay in a place of love (literally):
During this time, you probably stay in the place you grew up in, or at least a place where you spent some time as a child. If those were happy times, good for you, be prepared for a heart-warming nostalgia session. But if those places remind you of difficult or toxic episodes, opening the main door and passing the porch can be enough to open a box of unwanted memories that will play in your head for the next 2 weeks. So, for once, what about accepting the invitation of 20 years from your auntie or cousin? Or if you don’t have any relative around, opting for the neutral set up of a B&B? Doing so will provide you a peaceful oasis where you will be able to charge your batteries and spend some time aside, so you could show up refreshed and energized to the next family meeting.
9- Continue meditating:
As mentioned in point 2, the temptation is big to forget about healthy habits during the holidays, but if there’s one I would recommend to keep at any cost, it’s that you continue to meditate. If you practice regularly, you already know that this is the ultimate tool to take a step back, think straight, manage your emotions and get rid of stress- all of this being much needed during the end of the year. Never tried meditation yet? That’s all right! Find yourself a relaxing music and a quiet room, give yourself 10 minutes to just plug your head set and focus on your breathing, taking some deep breathes in and out until you feel more relaxed.
10-Try to exercise and get out:
Instead of approaching this period as a stressful one, what about seeing it as what it is in reality: a holiday time ie: an opportunity to do what you don’t do usually. And, I don’t know about you, but being in nature and exercising are 2 things that regularly end up at the bottom of my to do list. Take a walk, take care of pets, go running, spend some time in the woods or the seaside if you are lucky to have any around, take every chance to (re)connect with your body and your soul.
This year, I would love if we could take Christmas as a moment of deep connection with the people we care about, in all consciousness of who we respectively are, far away from all the glitters and credit card debts. Doing so, we could give ourselves an incredible gift of healing and growing before welcoming all the opportunities the new year will have to offer.
Initially published via my Elephant Journal account