Most families would say that the holiday season normally brings both elements of joy and difficulty. But with illnesses circulating, costs going up, pressure to get the best toys and gifts and full calendars, we can struggle with feelings of stress or disappointment.
What can we do to prepare and make this holiday season happy and enjoyable with our families? While there might be a family cookbook passed down through generations, no one has a family playbook for how to celebrate the holidays perfectly every year. Here are a few suggestions to make the holiday season more merry and bright:
1. Think about what really matters
Kids get sick, someone won’t like their gift, a new holiday recipe may not turn out. Reminding yourself to be open to challenges can help prevent undue levels of frustration and disruption. If we go into the holiday season expecting things to be perfect and run smoothly, we are bound for disappointment.
Before starting the holiday season, take some time to pause and reflect on what really matters to you and your family. Is it spending time with loved ones? Is it passing down family traditions to your children? Is it volunteering and helping others? Making sure you spend time doing what you value will help you find calm and happiness during a busy time.
2. Connect with Family and Friends
Having strong bonds with other people (social connections) is good for mental health! And the holidays can be a great time to see and spend time with loved ones. Find ways for you and your children to connect with close friends or relatives.
We know the holidays can also be hard for people whose friends and family live far away. If you’re unable to travel to see some of the people you love most at the holidays, find ways to connect with them using technology, or even mailing cards/notes back and forth.
Try to think of family, friends and neighbors who might have less local social support and offer to include them in festivities or drop something off at their door. It is an act of kindness that won't be forgotten, and helps children learn a valuable lesson about empathy and kindness. Share a portion of a meal, make an art project to give them or invite them to your holiday gathering. It will benefit your family as much as the person receiving the act of kindness.
3. Set Healthy Boundaries
Since you’ve thought about what matters most to you during the holiday season, you can let go of other activities that you and your family don’t have time for. It’s okay to say no to some things in order to do more of the things that matter to you and your family.
A few ideas to get you started:
- Communicate clearly and thoughtfully – be honest and respectful about what you and your family are able to do, and not do, this holiday season.
- Avoid guessing at someone else’s feelings – you may think that they are disappointed, but you don’t know that for sure. When in doubt, ask them.
- Stick to the boundaries that you’ve set – now that you’ve established some boundaries, you need to keep them. This can be challenging at first, but very rewarding as you see yourself and your family more focused on the things that bring you joy.
4. Take Time for Self-Care
With all the busy plans many of us have around the holidays, it’s easy to let our normal routines go. Ensure you stick to your self-care routine for you and your family to stay well. If you don't already make time for self-care, there's no better time to start. Here are some activities to help guide you:
- Get some exercise, and include your family to help create good habits for everyone. There are thousands of free workouts online that you can follow from home with no equipment needed.
- Take a hike, find a new park or nature preserve or walk in your local neighborhood. Studies show that spending time outdoors, even in cold weather, is good for mental health.
- Take time for mindfulness activities as well. Teach your children to be able to sit and recognize the world around them. The sounds, sights and smells they might normally ignore. Mindfulness helps our brains reset and keeps us feeling well.
By prioritizing what really matters, connecting with loved ones, setting healthy boundaries and taking care of ourselves, we can reduce stress and find more to enjoy this holiday season.