Choose gratitude and simplicity…
Holidays are always a special time, and we eagerly anticipate the approaching season here at The Premier Property Group. The coming weeks are sure to usher in plenty of festivities, memorable moments with family and friends and allow us to take a detour from normal routines. In some ways, time slows down a bit as kids are home from school, adults take time off from work and extended family we haven’t seen since this time last year make appearances.
The holidays can also be a time of extreme busyness and stress. We’re surrounded by images of perfect holiday meals and beautiful family memories, and our expectations are high. Even under the best circumstances, holiday experiences can often times result in disappointment and discord unless we intentionally guard against it.
It is our hope that you and yours have the best holiday experience ever this year. That’s why we reached out to Jennifer Tallman, a licensed clinical social worker at Bay Area Psychological Consultants, to get some insights on how to improve our own emotional response to the onslaught of holiday happenings around us. She offers four tips for navigating the busy holiday season.
Manage your expectations.
“We get very anxiety-ridden and stressed out about creating the perfect holiday, so we tend to be on edge,” Tallman said. “Do things that will help you be a little calmer despite the things happening around you.”
For example, set realistic expectations for your decorations, get-togethers and meals by recognizing that the media delivers us curated images that don’t provide a back-story for all that went into the image. Expect that one of your dishes may not be perfect, or anticipate that your family members may have awkward moments during the visit. In the end, accept that whatever happens will be ok.
“There’s a lot of pressure for holidays to be the time that we see family, especially extended family that lives far away,” Tallman said. “But when big family gatherings include lots of big personalities, tensions often rise.”
If possible, pare your gathering to fewer people, like 8 instead of 20. If that isn’t possible, focus on those things that you can be thankful for.
When the stress of an event begins to overwhelm you, Tallman suggests deep breathing and meditation to help control emotional responses. Take a break before you engage in activities like decorating or preparing a meal. Better yet, simplify your plans to reduce stress: hang fewer decorations, be willing to compromise when conflict arises and expect that your plans won’t work out perfectly.
“We have this desire for everything to go off without a hitch, but real life just always happens,” Tallman said. “Even our friends on social media are putting their own best foot forward. Only a truly vulnerable person would post that they burned the chicken or the pie didn’t turn out well.”
“Focus on gratitude,” Tallman said. “It sometimes gets lost in the busyness of making things perfect.”
Switch your mindset from one of focusing on what you don’t like about a family member to focusing on what you do like. Instead of fixating on what bothers you about your relatives, concentrate on what you’re thankful for about them. Work to accept them exactly as they are, but step away when you feel overwhelmed.
Be grateful that your family members made a long trip to visit. Be grateful for the things you have instead of lamenting the things you don’t. Always remember, that we don’t have much time together anyway, appreciate this sacred time together.
Control your own reactions.
We’re all too familiar with toxic topics that can change dynamics at family gatherings. Yet, Tallman points out that “politics and religion” will invariably come up because we can’t control what other people say. “Instead, we can control our own reactions,” she points out. “It’s ok to say, ‘I’m a little hurt by what you said.’ It’s also important to brush off things that aren’t really worth getting into.”
Consider that if an older relative says something harsh, we’re often more inclined to excuse the offense, either out of respect for the family member’s position or because the debate isn’t worthwhile. Tallman suggests approaching all encounters with the same grace. If small things like sports rivalries or other topics become unexpectedly hostile, be willing to overlook them.