Take two weeks in December to break your routine travel, overeat, overdrink, under-exercise, and undersleep (with relatives in close quarters) and you have the potential for disaster. Oh yeah, add a New Year’s celebration in there, too.
We need to plan early to check the expectations we have about our end-of-year holidays. It’s important to become clear about what our expectations are; wanting some “down” time to enjoy yourself is much too vague.
Here are the Challenges
Because many religions have created ritual and tradition around the winter solstice, the day the Earth begins its cycle back toward the sun, spiritual expectations can be high. People with a busy lifestyle may create expectations around spending time with immediate and extended family. Socially minded people may want to connect with long-lost friends.
More than any other time of year, the holiday season can evoke a wide range of emotions, such as regret for not reaching certain goals, worry about time passing by, foreboding about the future, or feelings of loss for past relationships. These emotions drive us to value and expect different things during the holidays, and they are the source of much of our holiday anxiety.
Here’s the Plan
Why not make this the year you come away from the winter holidays feeling rejuvenated, relaxed, and ready for a great new year? You can create the holiday you’d love to have and avoid unnecessary stress by working your way through the following steps:
Step 1: Clarify your expectations. Brainstorm and list all the things you’d like to do over the holidays. Circle your 12 favourites. Next to each of these 12 items, write down what it is you wish to experience by doing them. For example, if you write “See Mary from high school” in column one, in column two you might write “To feel the comfort of someone who knows all about me.”
Step 2: Don’t expect people to change unless you change towards them. If Auntie Bessie has been a critical buttinsky for 30 years, don’t expect her to be any different this year. Anticipate her comments ahead of time and decide how you are going to respond. In this way, when it happens you won’t react but will simply respond in the way that you have rehearsed, and her comments will have less impact. Family tension is normal, but if you change how you handle it, your enjoyment won’t be compromised.
Step 3: Put aside a day to plan your holiday. It may take some time and effort to set up a game plan, but it takes more time and effort to suffer through and recover from a chaotic holiday. Schedule in the best of your top12 activities, but don’t overschedule! Better to have fewer, more rewarding experiences.
Step 4: Remember to keep your diet, exercise, and sleep as close to normal as possible. If you get off-track, don’t get upset; you’ll be back to your normal routine shortly.
When the holiday hits, watch how your expectations are met. Relax and you will enjoy your way into 2006.