As we approach the holiday season what is on our minds and in our hearts? Do we look forward to this time of year, or do we anticipate more stress, more exhaustion, more chaos? How we think and feel about the holidays can shape our experience of the season.
Whatever your perspective, we can all benefit from some thoughtful planning for the holiday season. First of all, consider shifting your perspective from "saving up" being with loved ones, gifting to others, socializing during the holiday season to a perspective of celebrating relationships and gifting year round. Why wait for a compressed week in December to do this? Take time any time during the year to visit friends and family, gift to a special friend or loved one or to do charitable work. This will make the holiday season less stressful and you can even remind friends at the holidays of that wonderful time you spent with them in June, or that you volunteered at their favorite charity in April.
Next, this year plan to do everything in moderation and stick to it! If you are the one who always cooks the meal, consider asking others to bring a dish to share. If you frantically and single handedly decorate your home, assign tasks to kids or when relatives come give them a task like trimming the tree or setting the table. They will feel important lending a hand and welcome the opportunity to keep busy. Remember to eat and drink in moderation. Excessive eating and drinking are common during the holidays and overtax our already stressed bodies. Let others know you are doing them a favor by serving non-alcoholic beverages and low fat food choices. Also important is to get plenty of rest even when you want to stay up and socialize. Take a night off and slip into bed just after dark. Whether you sleep, read or just listen to music and relax, your body will thank you.
Another thought in planning this year is that New Year's resolution we never seem to stick to. This year try a different approach. First, make a written list of all the accomplishments and things that went right this year. Make your list exhaustive and spend enough time to remember every single event or task, big or small, and write it down. You'll be amazed at how many things you did right over the year! Next, make a list of all the things that didn't go so well. This is your time to gripe and complain to yourself. Now, what would you like to be able to put on the list of accomplishments for next year? Write down a "wish list" for yourself. These can be goals you have, like quitting smoking or attending a class, mastering a new skill, visiting friends, traveling, or improving your relationships. Now, what items on your list do you think you can reasonably accomplish over the coming year given your schedule and other commitments and make a "to do" list for yourself. Now you're ready to usher in the New Year (remember, in moderation) and list in hand, post it in a convenient place and as you complete each goal or task during the year, check it off your list. At year's end you can again reflect on what went well and what would you have liked to do better. My hope for all is that we'll have another chance next year...Enjoy!
Heidi B. Roeder, MS, LPC, LMFT was a former therapist at Franco Psychological Associates, P.C.