The holidays are a time that many look forward to and many dread! Which one are you? In my years as a private practice clinician, I have logged in a lot of hours assisting my clients with navigating through this time. In my observation there are a few things that seem to separate those who enjoy this time and those who, by January, are frazzled, sleep deprived, and thankful they made it out alive!
One thing to consider as you enter into holiday season is how much of your experience seems dictated by obligation and trying to meet the expressed or unexpressed expectations of others. One way of knowing this is to take an internal measurement of resentment. Resentment is wonderful at telling us that we need a different boundary and that we have often stepped out of healthy self care. Resentment is often created by saying "yes" when what we needed to say was "no." Take some time to check in with yourself. Are you doing something because you believe someone will be mad or hurt if you don't? You have probably already crossed over into trying to meet the expectations of others that conflicts with your own self care or the care of your family.
Focus on two things and I can safely say you will enjoy your holidays more!
First off, listen to your intuition, thoughts,and feelings around what your value system is as it relates to the holidays and give yourself permission to follow it. This value system will dictate how you spend your time and money and why. Is this a time for friends and family? Is this a time of relaxation and renewal? Is this about simplicity for you and a focus on the spiritual? Is it a time for gift giving and providing joy for others? Take some time to sit with this and let the answers come to you. This is not about selfishness. If you do this you will spend some time doing things you don't want to do but the difference is that you will feel good about it. For example, you may not feel ready to visit your grandmother at the nursing home but you will be loving yourself and her by visiting and you will feel positive later when you think about your visit. When we don't follow our own value system, we do things we don't want to do and feel resentment about it later.
The second piece is taking steps to create your holiday time by chosing what you want to do and start saying NO or limiting time spent on the rest. Identify the aspects of the holiday that bring you joy and that flow from your value system and decide to do them this year. Schedule them or begin planning them if they are events. Listen to your self about what is important to you. Sit down with your family and talk about it. Truthfully, kids don't enjoy spending time with their stressed out, frazzled parents who are too busy trying to create the perfect Christmas for them! Do you enjoy hours in the mall, shopping and looking at decorations? Great. If not, find a less stressful alternative for yourself. Are you crafty and enjoy putting extra time into wrapping gifts? Great. If not, throw them in a gift bag and move along. Love holiday parties? Great. Make them a priority and spend less time decorating your front yard. Find the parties torture? Great. Say no to the invite and sit home in front of your tree with some eggnog. Know that you can't or don't want to go to multiple family gatherings. Say no. Your anxiety will spike and then you will realize that everybody survived. If a family member stays upset, all that does is reveal what is already there (an unhealthy relationship) and you can then address that later if you chose to. You know that you are out of your value system if you are losing sleep, are irritable to those around you, spending money you don't have, or dreading too many hours in the week.
You are in an ongoing creative process, chose to create what you want for yourself and for your family. Don't agonize what to say "no" to, decide what you are going to say "yes" to and let that set the stage for your holiday season!