One of the things that has really struck me lately, especially with the holiday season fast approaching (way too fast for my taste but that’s just me), is the incredible number of things that are being marketed to us on a minute by minute basis. These things are put out there because they promise a feeling – cozy, loved, appreciated, valued, nourished, grateful, blessed, etc., feeling states that of course would be wonderful! From the commercials on television that started in September (it seems) to magazine photographs of the perfect table with perfect food that someone spends hours, days, weeks even putting together only to be doing the dishes 12 minutes later.
What is quite ironic is that most of the people that I talk with dread the actual holidays because they don’t feel any of those things. Instead, they are caught up in the stress of travel, of “having” to put the PERFECT experience together only to have it ruined by people actually showing up (I joke, but you know what I mean – someone didn’t appreciate all of the hard work we did to put this occasion together, the money we spent or the time we took to hand cut the decorative turkeys for the table decorations :), etc.) and of the personal history with the people we celebrate with, whether it is uncomfortable situations, unreasonable expectations, taboo topics or just different ideas of how things “should” be done. Instead of being these wonderful occasions, they tend to be filled with resentment, disappointment and frustration.
Do Something Different – Think About How You Want To FEEL!
Wouldn’t it be interesting to try something different this year? What would it be like to place more emphasis on how you want to FEEL on that particular day rather than on the stuff that tends to take over the day? Do you want to feel relaxed, playful, engaged, present in the moment? I’m assuming that these are all feelings that people desire to have since that is what the advertisers are marketing. Really think through how you want to feel throughout the day. Is there anything that could help you move towards making that feeling a reality? This could be as basic as making a timeline of what needs to be done when, making some of the dishes ahead of time, delegating and asking for help, buying a pre-baked dish/meal. If you are traveling, the same thing applies.
Write Yourself a Post-Holiday Letter Now
I got this idea from Master Life Coach Indrani Goradia and it is as brilliant as she is! Write a letter to yourself as though the holidays are over. Write in detail how you felt during this time, what you noticed, how you handled people or situations that may have caused frustration or disappointment in the past, and what you did ahead of time to help yourself to be able to enjoy the present moment. The more detailed the letter the better!
This may seem kind of odd but it actually works. By thinking some of these things through and visualizing what you want and how you want to feel, your brain can get busy doing what it does best – thinking! You will probably get some great ideas that will help you to make the experience more in line with your desires, ideas that you may not have thought of or thought of in the moment where it would be too late to implement them (ex. I can just hear myself saying, “Next year I am going to do *insert an easier solution* so I’m not standing here *insert annoying/tedious/frustrating activity* while everyone else is watching football and having fun.”)
Thinking through this experience or occasion in great detail allows you to get a sense of what is going to happen, how you might feel and what you can do to improve on something that may not feel the best. This does not solve 100% of the things that can creep up when the actual thing happens but you would be surprised at how much calmer you are when the unexpected does creep up because you haven’t been stressed out about all of the other stuff.
Check Out To Check In
Take a few “check out to check in” breaks. Excuse yourself and check in with how you are feeling and what is going on with you and your body. Are you allowing yourself to relax and be in the moment or are you getting caught up in other people’s drama or things you feel you “should” be doing? Taking some deep breaths and refocusing on how you want to be feeling can help to shift your attention and better your experience.
Anticipate the Usual Triggers
You know what they are for you. These could be the unkind comment, eye-roll or sigh from a “loving” guest or host, the no-show or late-show guest who leaves everyone waiting yet expects everyone to be thrilled when they finally get there, the drunken rant from someone who doesn’t appreciate how you were looking at them, etc. Each person has their own triggers and it is really helpful to know them and to prepare for these ahead of time. You can do this by just remembering to breathe and know that whatever their behavior is, it has everything to do with them and nothing to do with you. Reactions to these behaviors are caused by some sort of painful thought or belief.
Create an invisible bubble or shield around yourself and let anything that could cause you to become upset bounce right back onto them. The interesting part about someone who passes judgement or anger is that if you do not engage with that judgement or anger, it confuses them and watching this confusion is actually pretty amusing which means that by not engaging, you have moved from being a victim to being an observer, and that is a powerful shift!!