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Holiday Expectations

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With less than two weeks left before Christmas, are you feeling the pressure of the holidays? Is it difficult to have the holiday spirit when you are extremely stressed out? It seems that the holidays bring out the best and the worst in us as we ratchet up the intensity and busyness. We want everything to be perfect, Norman Rockwell style, and we expend an enormous amount of time and energy to create the idyllic Christmas. Why do we do this to ourselves? Certainly, we can blame the media which implies that the amazing meal, presents, and decorations determine the success of the holiday. Or we may be trying to recreate holidays past, hoping to experience the special feelings we had as children. We may want to create a fabulous holiday to distract and disconnect from our emotional pain and loss we experienced this year. Sometimes we're looking to impress others, compete with our neighbors, and/or redefine the holiday season. Maybe we believe that others expect us to provide a special day since we've been doing it for years and hate to disappoint.

Of course we are our own worst enemy and often place unrealistic expectations on ourselves. However, we can modify our demands and expect less of ourselves when it comes to decorations, gifts, and food. Instead, we can shift our focus to the process rather than the outcome and create a more joy-filled experience. For example, shop with a friend, working a coffee or lunch into the process, listen to Christmas music while you work or take breaks. Shift your focus away from material things by making an effort to reach out and connect with the people who matter to you. Simplify your holidays by having others chip in to help with the holiday celebration instead of carrying the burden alone. Think about gifts that you can give that don't cost anything, like time, love, praise, forgiveness, and affection.

Develop your own traditions since that helps create bonds and make the holidays special. We had a tradition when our children were young where we picked a secret Santa from our family and everyday during advent that person would do something nice for their chosen person. They might take one of their chores, write an encouraging note or place a piece of chocolate under their pillow. On Christmas day we would reveal who our secret Santa was for the season. This way of expressing love for each other reminded us of God's love. He loves us so much that he sent his son, Jesus, into the world as a baby to live among us. Take time to rejoice in the implications of this miracle.

Spending time with family and friends can be incredibly joyful, especially when we're focused on the connections and not the expectations. Our families need our presence over presents. Be engaged and intentional this holiday about talking to your loved ones about their lives and express the value they have in your life. Lastly engage in activities that you can share together such as board/card games, concerts, movies, physical activities, or seasonal events. But most importantly tell the people in your life how much you love them. This holiday season, release expectations of unattainable perfection and breathe in the joy of relationships.

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