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The holidays are just around the corner and many look forward to this “happy” time of year. This is the time for family bonding, gift exchanges, seasonal treats, and an overwhelming sense of magic and togetherness. However, for others the holidays may be more of a struggle . . . some may feel hesitant to partake in the upcoming festivities. Unfortunately for these individuals, the holiday season is not always a time of joy and celebration. It can be quite stressful to gather the family, to rekindle old relationships, or to budget accordingly in order to afford the simplest gifts. The holidays are a perfect time to set unrealistic expectations on yourself as well as others. In fact, many tend to ask: “How am I going to survive this holiday season?”

Though past authors have expressed tips on how to “survive the holidays” not many have shared how to truly enjoy this wonderful time of year. My mother loves the holidays, she does not love the snow or cold weather that accompany the holidays, but she loves decorating, pulling out family ornaments, and having everyone-especially her children-together under one roof. This leads us to our next lesson:

Lesson #4
Enjoy the holidays with your loved ones and cherish every moment.

The holidays don’t have to be a “drag,” or an “obligation.” There is no need to “survive” anything. I’ll let you in on a little secret: By already thinking about the holidays as a “negative” period of forced obligation, you are creating negative assumptions about an event that hasn’t taken place and even heightening the unwanted expectations of “what’s going to happen.” Remember the laws of attraction? If you are going to think a certain way, that mindset soon becomes your reality.

Now, some may say: “Yeah, but last year I had an awful time…” Though you may have had bad experiences in the past, it’s important to remember that you have grown a whole year since then. You have had new experiences, developed new relationships, and participated in new conversations. You are a much different person today than you were yesterday. Therefore, there is no reason this holiday season has to remain the same as it once was.

As we wrap up 2016, it is time to break free from these preconceived assumptions and to truly enjoy ourselves before we ring in the New Year! I have asked several individuals how they were able to truly enjoy their holidays in the past despite having felt the initial stress that may accompany this busy season. Below are some their responses.

1. Live in the present, not in the past.
Though we try our best to stay focused and we may be physically present, our mind naturally tends to wonder. By adopting a higher sense of self-awareness, you will be able to remain conscious of the here and now rather than worry about the past. Stay away from questions like “what if.” There is no guarantee that anything would change or be different if you acted any differently in the past. In fact, many report living in the present moment is most helpful when it comes to dealing with past troubles.

2. Remain mindful.
Remaining mindful sounds pretty simple, but can sometimes be challenging. It’s difficult to “not think ahead.” However, there are certain tricks to remember when grounding yourself. Remember to raise awareness to your physical sensations and truly understand the emotions that you may experience.

3. Spend time with those you love and want to spend time with.
Remember to make time for the family and friends who love and support you. Though it’s impossible to get along with everyone and to have the “perfect” holiday, it is possible to share treasured moments with those who mean the most to you. Perfection is an illusion. There is no such thing as the perfect person or the perfect family. But it’s important to recognize the value within each connection or relationship that may be significant and perfect for you.

4. Give yourself a gift.
That’s right! You work so hard to find your loved ones the perfect gifts – why not treat yourself during then holidays as well? Get yourself that nice sweater you’ve been eyeing! Or better yet, treat yourself to a massage or even a spa day! You are allowed to love and pamper yourself because you, just like anyone else, deserve your love and affection.

5. Offer a helping hand.
It can be quite rewarding to offer help to anyone who may need it at anytime of the year, however, this feeling and sense of purpose can be heightened during the holiday season. Some ideas include: volunteering at a soup kitchen or shelter, organizing a toy drive, or even collecting donations for a hospital or charity.

6. Try something new. Travel/experiences.
Individuals who value their time off of work often enjoy traveling during the holidays – even if it means taking a trip across the country to visit family. Rather than arriving on an airplane, many prefer to travel by car-stopping at different parts of the country along the way. Life is an adventure and so it can be exciting to have new experiences and new stories to tell when you arrive at your final destination. If travel doesn’t interest you, then try something new anyway-bake ginger bread cookies if you haven’t before, reservations at a different restaurant, or buy tickets to a new show! The possibilities are endless when you allow yourself the permission to be creative and curious.

Remember, the holidays are not as bad as they may seem. However, our expectations can cause a great deal of stress during the “happiest time of the year.” Do not expect things to be perfect (because I can promise you, they won’t be) and do not expect everything to go wrong (because it is possible for something to go right). Be mindful of your preconceived assumptions and expectations by reminding yourself that that is all that they are. They are simply guesses and ideas. We will never know the true outcome of any event until we live through it and experience it on our own. Take note of the happy times you share with your loved ones and keep this list in mind as you move forward.

Dr. Lori Lundin-Fish, Ph.D., LMFT
Palm Beach Therapy Center, LLC.
3200 N Federal Highway, Suite 206-14
Boca Raton, FL 33431
(718) 916-7759