do more than make it through - make the holidays happy!
The holidays are right around the corner (seriously, time does not stop flying)! When I started thinking about the holidays this year, a sadness came over me. I figured a lot of others were feeling the same way. As I sat down to write this post and looked deeper into these feelings, I realized that the holidays really do bring up a lot of emotions. Emotions can run the gamut at this time of year; many of them can be difficult. But we can do more than just make it through the holidays. By intentionally focusing on a few things, we can make the holidays happy!
The feelings that come up around the holidays can be very different depending on your stage of life. The midlife stage is unique and I wanted to give us a little perspective and support during what can be a difficult time of year.
Stress is not what happens to us; it’s our response to what happens. And our response is something we can choose.”
~ Maureen Killoran
In addition to the regular holiday stress from doing all the things, in midlife you may also be dealing with feelings associated with:
- Grown/grownish children who have moved out or aren’t around much.
- Aging parents that can’t do as much as they used to or are in overall poor health.
Both of these things represent big changes in our lives. And, change in general can be really tough. So, midlife definitely brings an added dimension to the emotions we feel during the holiday season.
Why do holidays bring up all of these emotions anyway? It really boils down to two main reasons –
1. Holidays involve family and relationships.
Whether we are with our family or they aren’t around, we can experience difficult feelings either way. But we also feel happiness and joy and love.
2. Holidays remind us of our purpose (or feeling a lack of).
Taking care of all the things (and the kids) has been our purpose for many years. Now, since there aren’t as many things to take care of, we may feel a lack of purpose or that no one needs us anymore. When in reality, our purpose just evolves. (More on purpose here.)
Since you’re here reading this post, I’m thinking you may agree with me – the holidays can be hard and these midlife years definitely come with their challenges. But, you don’t want to dwell on the hard stuff or just “make it through.” You WANT to make the most of life, including the holidays and you want to fully enjoy the moments.
HOW CAN YOU MAKE THE HOLIDAYS HAPPY?
So, in order to do more than just make it through and actually make the holidays happy, here are some things to remember:
Stay in the moment
Since being an adult, I can’t remember a holiday that I haven’t felt overwhelmed, stressed, and rushed. There are gifts to buy, a house to clean and decorate, food to prepare, cookies to bake, and events to attend. I don’t recommend focusing on all of these at once! Staying in the moment helps to pay attention to what’s at hand and not become overwhelmed by our to do list. It also helps us appreciate the now – or the preparations.
With all of the changes happening in our lives, there are bound to be changes to our normal holiday routines or traditions. Instead of resisting these changes, try accepting that you may not be spending the holidays with the people who you’ve always been with. Accept that you’re no longer going to your parents’ home or that you’ll be traveling to your child’s home or maybe you’ll even be alone. You can choose to accept these changes and look for the wonder in these new experiences.
Maintain healthy boundaries
Since everyone is feeling emotional this time of year, there will be people around you who may be on edge or feeling anxious. Maintaining healthy boundaries will make sure that you don’t take on extra stress that might be “in the air.” Remember, it’s not up to you to make sure everyone is happy and everything is perfect for everyone!
Try to notice when you start feeling anxious around someone who is having their own struggles. Acknowledge if you feel the need to fix problems that your child or partner or parent may be having. Then, take a minute to step back, breathe, and remember that it’s not your job. It’s only your job to be supportive and loving.
Don’t compare yourself to others
You know how perfect everything looks on social media or TV – homes are perfectly decorated and everyone is happy, healthy, and beautiful. And, you KNOW this is nowhere close to reality. There is so much to enjoy and if you take note of the positives in your own life, it leads to more happiness.
When you notice that something is making you feel really good, stop and breathe in those feelings, really FEEL them. Regularly doing this literally makes you happier. (Learned this from Dr. Rick Hanson. See resources below.) So when you hear a song that brings back a wonderful memory (even if it’s in Walmart), or smell spicy scents coming from the oven (even if the kitchen is a mess), or wake up to icy tree branches (even though your commute might be difficult), stop, take a breath, and really feel the joy; ensuring that you make the holidays happy.
Be kind to yourself
Because it is extra busy around this time of year, it’s even more important to remember to practice self care. If you’re tired, take a nap or go to bed early. Don’t push yourself. Don’t beat yourself up for buying something for you when you’re out shopping for others; don’t spend your time/energy worrying whether the gifts you got are good enough; don’t feel badly for overeating. You KNOW what’s important (hint – it’s not how perfectly you wrap a gift).
As I’m writing this, Thanksgiving is coming up next week. I’m super excited to see family! And so grateful that my kids will be able to join me.
What holidays do you celebrate? How are you feeling? Excited, stressed, anxious, sad?
I hope these reminders help you to make your holidays happy!
I’m so glad you’re here and that we can navigate these midlife changes together.
RECOMMENDATIONS & RESOURCES:
Came across this during my research and thought it had a ton of great info: Shame Around Holiday Eating Hurts Us Year-Round. Here’s How To Fix It.
I follow Dr. Rick Hanson and listen to the podcast he does with his son called Being Well. This Ted Talk is wonderful: Hardwiring Happiness Ted Talk