No matter how you celebrate, for many people it is difficult to balance your expectations, family expectations (or what you perceive them to be) and the reality of holidays. So much energy is directed toward creating the perfect holiday experience that we forget that events that are out of our control can easily affect the outcome. Often the stress robs people who are experiencing it of the joy that they desperately crave from the holiday.
Disappointment, and the stress that goes with it, happens when the gap between expectations and reality is too wide. Creating an expectation that is difficult to meet, if not entirely impossible, is going to cause problems. Instead of finding joy in the holiday, there is instead a sense of dread and frustration.
Before you get stuck in the usual holiday stress cycle you can create a plan to minimize your expectation/reality gap. You can minimize this by:
Find the things that bring you joy.
- Make a list of them and do them. Do not skip something because the people closest to you do not want to participate. They find their joy some other way, so they can certainly allow you yours. Do what you love. You may find that others love it too and will create a new tradition.
- Have others that are close to you list the things that they love about the holiday. You may find intersecting ideas of what will bring you all joy.
- Prioritize the list so that you can plan for the things that need done, and the things that you want to do. Be realistic about the priorities.
Do not compare yourself to others or compare your family to other families.
Keep in mind that social media posts are not a good way of judging how well a person’s holiday is progressing. Hallmark movies are also not a good indicator of how your life during holidays should be.
Prepare for the things that you know are going to happen. Every holiday the same things may be your trigger.
- You may have a relative who will not stop discussing politics, their graphic health details, or who has recently died. Another relative may never pitch in to help with meals. Kids may scream and fight.
- Remember that you cannot control what other people do—you can only control how you react.
- Practice ahead of time how to gracefully avoid, change the subject, deal with your discomfort in a constructive way.
- Acknowledge any feelings of sadness, stress, or anxiety to others. This prepares you and others for your mental state of being.
- Do not say “yes” to every invitation or expectation of others. Choose wisely, and make sure that you choose some small ways to pamper yourself.
- Get plenty of sleep. Take breaks away from distractions regularly during the day too.
- Choose healthy food and avoid too much alcohol.
- Do not over-spend. Set a realistic budget and stick to it.
- Seek support if you need to. Seek out family, friends, or a counselor that can help you work through the stress even when you feel that the stress is a short-lived product of the holiday.
Remember that just because it is a holiday does not mean that it will be devoid of sadness, anxiety, and stress. This is reality. This is life.