“Act without expectation.” ~ Lao Tzu
It’s finally the most wonderful time of the year! Everyone has been waiting for this very moment and finally everything will be perfect and everyone will feel ecstatically happy. How could life possibly be any better than this!!! Yay!!!
Yeah right. As if!
You know that feeling? Like somehow you fail to experience joy while everyone else seems to know how to do it? What’s wrong with your life and your family? What’s wrong with you for not being able to be grateful and feel happy?! Yes, that feeling …
Holidays can be stressful due to a multitude of reasons so try to not put yourself or your life down. In this article we will share with you a few pointers that will hopefully help you to move towards a more satisfying holiday experience.
- Past Hurts
The holidays, like no other time, give rise to re-experiencing pain of past experiences. Maybe you only see certain people at this time of the year, people you usually don’t see because you choose not to. Maybe all those memories of how your parents criticised you or your brother bullied you come flooding back the minute you step into your old family home. Whatever it is, don’t fight it, but also don’t engage with it. All those horrible things are gone. They are in the past. They are not happening anymore and, unless you focus on them and engage with them, they can no longer hurt you the way they hurt you back then. There is nothing you have to do because there is nothing you can change about the past. It happened and it does not have to define your present, your future or you. Grieve the losses but learn to focus your attention on what you want to happen next. That rarely ever means giving up or going to extremes. It does not mean invalidating your past – it means accepting it so you can grow from it.
- Unrealistic expectations
Our culture has filled our minds with unrealistic expectations from toddlerhood onwards. (Disney has a lot to answer for, in my opinion). We are exposed to unrealistic expectations and judgements from the media (amongst other sources) on a daily basis. These discrepancies between a portrayed reality and your experienced reality often lead to disappointment – or possibly even into a downward spiral of self-blame and hopelessness. If there is one thing you ‘should’ (- and we tell people over and over again that should is a very bad word! -) always remember, it is that everyone suffers, everyone makes mistakes and life happens to all of us. Because we are human. And that means that we are fallible. And life is hard. So be kind to yourself (and others). Your life is fine as it is. It is real and normal and it is never necessary or helpful to compare yourself or your life to an ideal that does not exist or an ideal someone else dreamt up. You are just fine.
- Developing authenticity
We were taught to behave in certain ways and while that has many benefits for existing within a (family) system, it also has the potential to constrict and stifle us once we have grown up. As an adult you can be more authentically you. You have needs and wants. You can make choices. You can change your mind. You can state your opinion. But first you will need to get to know yourself better in a non-judgemental way. So you don’t like Brussel sprouts? That’s ok, say so. You feel offended when your dad calls you your childhood nickname. It’s ok to say so too by sharing how it makes you feel and asking him to speak differently to you. The more you allow yourself to be authentic, the more others will respect you for it.
- An attitude of gratitude
Most of us have a strong tendency to look for all the flaws and imperfections in experiences, others and ourselves. This is something we have control over. You can choose to shine the spotlight of your attention onto all the negativity surrounding you or all the other things in your life. We know what happens when you focus your spotlight on everything that makes you unhappy, so how about you try something else? Look for everything you can be grateful for. Once you start to look for things you are grateful for you will quickly experience strong feelings of warmth, kindness, gratitude and happiness. Look for the good in situations and others and your life will quickly start to look very different.
- Act with Love
We cannot control other people or external circumstances. Trying to do so will create a lot of suffering and disharmony. What you can control is how you act. Think about what kind of person you want to be and be that person. Do you want to be the sulky, miserable family member that spreads negativity? If not, think about how you want to be. Become aware of how you feel and react to situations, conversations and other people and then slowly practice change by behaving how you wish you behaved on a daily basis. Small steps with lots of patience and self-forgiveness will bring about big changes in your life.
There is a huge amount of practical information online about how to deal with stress during the holiday period so please look into that too to help yourself get a better experience.
I hope that you have found reading this article useful and that applying some of the strategies will provide you with better holidays overall.
And if it actually is really bad, remind yourself that it will be over soon. That means it will be in the past and therefore no longer exist 😉
Written by Marlena Tillhon