The Holiday’s Mixed Bag – New Solutions to the Stress of the Season

Giving Thanks

We all want the holidays to be beautiful and filled with love and joy. But, more often than not we are stressed by too much to do in too little time, obligations we would much rather avoid and unresolved family issues bubbling to the surface of our awareness or even erupting in our relationships. If any of these seem to come along with the holidays for you, we have some solutions to make this holiday a whole lot better.

Not enough time? – Create your idea of the perfect holiday season this year.  It is often difficult to observe how our culture affects our thinking. We often blindly follow the dictates of social custom without any deep thinking. These cultural or societal values show up in our minds as “supposed tos”. For example, “The holidays are supposed to be a time to give gifts” or “The holidays are supposed to be spent with the family.”

Want to know what beliefs are stored in your own mind? Try this simple exercise. Write at the top of a piece of blank paper:


The holidays are supposed to be _______________.

Then if you like, do this one.

During the holidays I must ______________.

Then with a free flow of consciousness pour your responses onto the page. Repeat the statement after each written response until you run out of responses.

Then read over what you have written with a discerning eye. Are the things you wrote absolutely true? Are you aware of where you got these ideas? Is there any merit to thinking beyond these ideas and re-creating your current version of the perfect holiday season for this year, unfettered by the rules of the past?

If so, then see how you can design this year’s holiday to be as enjoyable as possible. Discuss it with your loved ones and come to a mutual agreement for this season.

Too many obligations? Look to see how you can shorten the list. Are the obligations parties? Work related? A long gift list with shopping, wrapping and shipping involved? Are any of them optional? Could you have a good holiday season without fulfilling any of these obligations? Can you relieve yourself of any of the obligations without undesirable consequences? Can you decline any of them without feeling guilty?

Unresolved Family issues? Is there a way for you turn your complaints into requests?

For example, “My brother always spends a lot of money on gifts and I can’t compete with that,” could be translated into a request that sounds like a brief phone conversation where you say, “This year I’d like to suggest that we give one another cards where we acknowledge what we appreciate or love about one another. We could read them out loud around the tree. I think this could be a good way of making our love visible in a different way than the usual gift giving and I think it could make us feel even closer as a family, what do you think?”

Or another complaint could be, “My parents feel hurt if we don’t spend the holidays with them and it makes me feel guilty to not be with them.” This could be translated into “Mom, we would love to be with you during the holidays, yet John & I haven’t had any quality “alone time” for way too long. So I’m wondering if we could get together after the holidays for a family meal. Would you like to do that?”

Or the complaint that says, “My wife is always is so stressed doing things for other people that she is too tired to really enjoy herself,” could be translated into “Honey, I want us both to enjoy the holidays together this year. So, how about we ask everyone to pitch in and keep things as simple as possible. Would you help me put this idea into action this year?

Turning complaints into requests is a useful idea even after the holidays are over, and it takes some practice to get good at it. Hint, hint 😉

For those of you in the United States, we wish you a most fulfilling and nurturing Thanksgiving!

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