A season with so much expectancy always arrives faster than we’re ready for, often with high expectations, a never-ending to-do list, too little sleep and way too much stress. And, of course, the holidays also bring the F word: Family. We love them dearly, yet why does it seem to be the source of our biggest tension headaches?
To save your sanity (and your health), I want to share some helpful tips to remove some of that pressure and stress. And remember this: It’s ok to let yourself off the hook. You can’t do everything but you can love everything that you do. You can live happy and sane by remembering that many of the details you are stressing about will likely go unnoticed by those around you, or will soon be a distant memory by January 1.
So, let’s get to it! Here are six things you can do today to ditch the drama and restore peace and sanity to your holidays:
1. Suffering is completely optional
There are two ways to go through this holiday season – with joy or with misery. It’s your choice. Feeling stressed, angry and overwhelmed are not reactions to your holiday reality, they are reactions to the stories you’ve attached to your family, your circumstances or the events that are lined up in your calendar.
2. Stop believing everything you think
A favorite bit of counterintuitive advice I like to offer is to question everything you think. When we stop to edit the story, we are telling ourselves about a situation, we can shift our focus to the facts and realize how much precious energy we are using to generate an emotional story about our expectations or events. The truth will set you free you to accept “what is” and focus on the next best action that adds joy or value to the process.
3. Stop judging and start loving
Give everyone in your life a wonderful gift – the benefit of the doubt. A great way to do this is to first assume positive intent. A great place to start is to realize that my suffering doesn’t come from uncle Bob putting up his shoes on my new coffee table, my suffering comes from a story he does that on purpose and he intends to be disrespectful. This year, give the gift of mercy, compassion, patience and forgiveness – all can come with clear boundaries and a cheerful reminder that you are happy your family and friends are with you.
4. Give up the idea of perfection
Many of us feel the pressure to get everything done on time, with Pinterest perfection and to the liking of everyone present. Please stop this madness! What if perfect could simply be “what is”? While striving toward providing a good experience for everyone is a worthwhile and loving goal, keep your focus on presence, not perfection. Start with being present with the task or people in front of you and drop the expectations, judgment and worry. It’s not life or death, it’s simply a holiday dessert, a Christmas turkey, or a rug with a few extra crumbs. Most people won’t be overanalyzing it to the extent we tend to take these worries. Surrendering to a less-than-perfect standard is the hard part, but once you do, you will likely enjoy experiences that exceed your expectations. And you’ll be even more peacefully present because of it.
5. Life’s messy, live happy
Disappointment only comes when you argue with the reality of the holiday line-up on your calendar and in your home. We often come into the holidays with expectations shaped from our upbringing, or more recently, how social media suggests it should be. The reality is that holidays are messy and chaotic, so embrace it. What we see on social media is a well-crowdsourced, carefully edited snapshot of unattainable perfection. Embracing messiness allows us to live with more happiness. Give the gift of zero expectations of others and simply value your time together. A great mindset to embrace today is to approach the holidays with great expectancy, not great expectations.
6. Get wholehearted
Wholeheartedness is the antidote to fatigue, so if you can’t get out of it, get into it! Your wholehearted attitude opens you up to a better energy source than gutting it out. The trick is to get intentional. You will always have things undone; make sure they are the right things. Many people experience guilt around the holidays for not making it to every party or every family event. But remember: Guilt comes when you have done something wrong, and there is nothing wrong with setting healthy boundaries to enjoy and be present at the events that are realistic and attainable. Instead, get plenty of rest and give yourself the gift of compassion and enjoy the rewards of peace and sanity.
To learn more about ditching the drama in your life and work, and increasing engagement and accountability in your organization, visit www.RealityBasedLeadership.com.
Follow Cy Wakeman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CyWakeman