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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

Is it really? Hopefully, it has its joys and meaningful traditions, whatever those may be for you. As I flip my calendar to the last month or two each year, I begin to hear sighs and expressions of stress, stories of too many demands, not enough time, and I can almost feel the weight many of my clients are carrying as they pursue celebration. This predictably becomes part of many of my sessions with people at this time of year and I wondered if sharing what I explore with clients may serve to be helpful to you.

MEMORIES of past holidays may instill ideas in our heads of what we ‘should’ recreate. Honestly, our memories may not be completely accurate. And if they are, is replicating the past always realistic in your life and times which may be decidedly different? Perhaps more importantly, do these past practices resonate with who you are?

Some of the people I speak with have painful memories about the holidays, creating dread or angst that they are even approaching. Perhaps the holidays are a reminder of past family conflict or an association with the death of a loved one which reawakens the grief of the loss. Memories color our EXPECTATIONS of how current holidays will or should go. It is not so much the holidays and festivities themselves that laden us with stress, pressure and demands. It is how we think about them, what expectations we hold ourselves to, and what we allow other people to define for us, to expect from us.

I invite you to consider some ideas you may not have thought of yet. Ask yourself this question: Years down the road, what will I remember with joy and gratitude about this holiday? Will it be the silverware I spent hours polishing to use like mother use to, the four homemade pies grandma always made, or grandpa’s recipe for homemade eggnog? Will doing all that make it a joyful experience for you? Or is it the stories told, connections made, relationships nurtured, and times shared with loved ones? Is it light hearted conversation, laughter, walks together in the crisp air, taking family pictures in a favorite spot, building memories?

DEFINE YOUR OWN EXPECTATIONS: make deliberate choices, create your own traditions. Ask for help: share the work as well as the enjoyment. Allow yourself to say ‘no’ to some things, encourage yourself to hold boundaries to others’ ideas of what you should do.

CREATE TOUR OWN TRADITIONS: Consider for example, taking a family picture each year and have each family member offer something about the experience of the day or that year. Accumulate it as a story and pass it on as a legacy. Develop your own ideas from your personal values and what brings you joy.

EXPAND ON YOUR WORLDVIEW: Draw ideas from others: Consider the traditions of others in your life,

as well as the practices of cultures other than your own; Christian, Jewish, Kwanzaa celebrations, and so on. Perhaps, you may want to incorporate the memories of loss loved ones with a ritual. Allow for and nurture your sadness that may occur related to people you wish were still with you.

Especially at this time, PRACTICE SELF CARE

Be aware of your feelings and thoughts. Reflect on what you need to remain vibrant and healthy and open to joy. Prioritize your well being. Immerse yourself in positive connection with others and emphasize gratifying interpersonal experiences, and healing alone time.

Choose practices which bring you joy and create cherished memories that can become meaningful traditions for you and your family.

I wish you peace, joy, fulfilling connection, and meaningful memories at this time of year and always.

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