1. Set realistic expectations.
The greatest way to find disappointment in the holiday season is to set unrealistic expectations. If we focus on having a “perfect” holiday or on competing with the greatest holiday season in our memory, then we are indeed likely to be disappointed and overly stressed as we sense our dream rapidly going down the drain. Don’t be judgmental of the experience in advance or as it is occurring in the moment. If we expect the holidays to be dreadfully terrible, then they likely will be as we will only be able to see all that is wrong since that is what we are looking for at every moment. When we have no preconceived expectations, we are less likely to be disappointed or stressed. Live moment to moment and do not take things personally that other people are doing or saying. Everyone is in their own ‘stuff’ and at their own level of consciousness at every moment. It is all in Divine Order.
2. Everything in moderation- do not overindulge.
Avoid too much alcohol and other substances as they lower impulse control and create potential drama (see below). Substances can provoke or worsen depression and anxiety. Avoid overeating all that wonderful food that is in front of you no matter where you turn as it can contribute to lowered self-esteem and self-judgment. All the sweet temptations and can also wreak havoc with blood sugars, which can cause mood swings and make it difficult to sleep at night. Excess caffeine can also interrupt sleep as well as making you jittery and nervous. Make certain you get plenty of rest and stay hydrated with water and other non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated, non-carbonated fluids. Bah-humbug!
3. Don’t overextend your self in terms of events.
Structure your time during the holidays rather than reacting to what happens. Consider how, where and with whom you will celebrate the season- from a Thanksgiving trip to your hometown through New Years Eve celebrations. Make certain that you do not schedule too many gatherings in close proximity that will make you feel constantly rushed or feel pushed to get from place to place. Schedule down time for your self to relax.
4. Budget your spending before shopping and stick to it.
Do not make January bill-paying an extension of the holiday stress. By setting your limit in advance and sticking to it, you will not start a sliding scale toward ruin as you ‘allow’ your self to spend that extra dollar on each person on your list. If you cannot afford to spend for all extended family members, then have everyone agree in advance to put names in a hat and draw out one name per person and set a limit to spending. Do not compete with anyone for holiday gifting- you can never win and you will regret it later. Consider using your creative talents and making a simple gift from the heart and not from the wallet. Do not make it your motto to “Give til it hurts”. You cannot buy love- and no one will be impressed.
5. Decrease drama and chaos.
Avoid having your family being filmed as the Jerry Springer Holiday Special. Do not get into a new relationship at the last moment just so you do not have to be alone for the holidays. Do not provoke family or friends with gifts that are designed to make them feel guilty, take revenge, or to teach them a lesson they are not interested in learning. If there is one ounce of you that is saying in an inner still small voice “maybe I shouldn’t be doing this”, then DON’T. Enough said. Consider avoiding dramatic people in your life or those energy vampires if you do not really have to be around them. If you do have to be around negative or dramatic people that create negative experiences, consider using our ‘La Cucaracha’ Technique. Remember, when you speak, it is better to be kind than to be right.
6. Keep the true spirit of the season.
No matter what your up-bringing or religious background, recall that this is the time of year for expressing and exploring your spirituality. It is traditionally a time for joy, love, compassion and giving. You might consider volunteering in your community and possibly sharing that experience with your family or children- in a soup kitchen, battered women’s shelter, or children’s home or hospital. True abundance is about sharing and contributing.
7. Keep the magic in the holidays.
Do you recall the magic of the holidays from when you were a child? If you or your parents played Santa, put food out for the reindeer, believed in elves, went out at midnight to see if the animals talked, or played with a dreidel, then continue the magic. Pass this heritage on to your children or grandchildren or find surrogate children in your life to play with. Hide a pickle ornament on your tree, hide a stuffed elf doll in different spots in your home each day, play secret Santa, or start other silly traditions that keep playfulness and magic alive in your heart and in your home.
8. Create healthy family traditions.
Design rituals for your family that you feel comfortable with and that will bring you love and joy throughout the holiday season. Do not get stuck in a holiday rut. Family traditions have to start somewhere; you can start a tradition anew and pass it forward. You can expand and connect with new people and practices.
9. Remember to have fun and treat your self!
Put your self on you own holiday list. De-stress in healthy ways with exercise and massage or other enjoyable activities.
10. Have compassion for your children if you are separated, divorced or are dealing with blended families.
The Holidays After Divorce:
5 Things to Do:
1. Be sensitive to the fact that your children are looking forward to the holidays with you and also with your ex. Do not take it personally that children like to spend time with both parents. Create new or continue old holiday traditions to make your children feel good about the holidays.
2. Do coordinate big gifts with your ex. There is nothing like the letdown of both of you getting your child the same big gift. It is a letdown for both the parent and the child and is completely avoidable by communication between both parents.
3. Do send a card to your ex’s family if you are close to them. It is natural to still have feelings for them if you were close emotionally to them. However, do not say anything derisive or negative about your ex in the card.
4. Call a truce with your ex in the spirit of the holidays if you do not have mutually respectful relationship or still harbor animosity toward them. The holidays are a time to transform anger and to have goodwill to all men (and women)… even if that includes your ex.
5. Do take care of your self during the holidays- take time to de-stress in healthy ways (exercise, massage, good nutrition, refrain from over-indulging in food or alcohol). If the children are not with you over the holidays, then plan to do something that would be fun and nurturing rather than sitting at home and being miserable.
5 Things Not to Do:
1. Do not compete with your ex to out-do in gift-giving…. it only spoils the children and makes everyone feel uncomfortable (including the children).
2. Do not punish the children for having a good time with your ex or sharing stories of the good times they had at your ex’s home. Don’t you want your children to have good memories of their holidays? They have a good time with you too and are also sharing that with your ex. Your children need to feel happy and loved in both homes and not be made to feel guilty about it.
3. Do not send a mean card to either your ex or your ex’s family. If you can’t say something nice (especially during the holidays), then don’t send anything at all.
4. Do not tell your children how lonely you are when they are not with you over the holidays. It is NOT fair to make your children feel responsible for your feelings, thoughts or behaviors. We are very powerful in our choices, and we can either choose to be miserable or choose to be happy. After all, the adults were the ones who chose to get a divorce. The children just have to deal with the situation.
5. Do not over-extend your self over the holiday with attempts to be super-parent to outdo your ex (by volunteering in the school, with sports team, or community parties).
Wishing you all a stress-free holiday season!
Tracy Latz, M.D. & Marion Ross, Ph.D. (aka “The Shift Doctors”)
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