Why were the holidays magical when you were a child? Probably largely because there were so many adults doing the work to make it magical. But why else? Did the magic come from the joyful anticipation of the little things? Christmas lights? Candle-lit Menorahs? Celebrating with family and friends? How can you re-engage with the joy and magic of the season and cut out the stress?
Check your expectations: When we expect things to go a certain way, we are essentially wanting to control the outcome. We are much more likely to have positive experiences if we relinquish control (easier said than done!), and accept that we often have limited control. Expectations are the backbone of disappointment.
Roll with reality: If you can learn to adapt and embrace the unexpected, the traffic jam that makes you late for the work holiday party can turn into a great time to catch up with your partner or call that friend you’ve been meaning to call. Reframe a disaster into an opportunity.
Mind readers wanted: Although a spontaneous gesture is a glorious thing, most people suffer disappointment because their significant other doesn’t realize what they want (romantic dinner, special gift, etc.), and can’t read their mind. Take the guesswork out of it and tell him or her straight up what you’re hoping will happen. If that’s too unromantic, tell a friend or family member exactly what you want and have him or her suggest it to your partner.
Perfectionistas beware: Perfectionism is the kiss of death for peace and serenity. Torturing yourself to make everything perfect saps the fun out of a celebration and creates stress.
Cut some slack: Give everyone a break this holiday season, including yourself. If you mess up, learn from it and move on.
Channel your younger self: Look for joy in the little things. When we focus on the happy little things each day, we have less need for the big, huge experiences. Would you prefer a huge anniversary celebration once a year or daily reminders of how much your person adores you, such as snuggles, smiles, or a caress as he or she walks by?
Create healthy boundaries: If you’re gathering with family members who you know upset you, create your game plan ahead of time. One thing you always have control over is how you allow others to affect you. No one is able to make you feel bad but you. Keep your power, neutralize your emotion, and carry on.
Beth Ehrichs, LMSW is a private practice therapist specializing in anxiety, couple’s therapy and sex therapy. She guides people to remember how to enjoy life as they make meaningful change