How to mentally prepare for the holidays

As Winter Holidays approaching, it can be both the happiest and the most challenging season.

  • Holiday gifts? Sure, but also stress of finding and selecting the right gifts, gifting them in hopes for the right reaction and then, next month, getting the bills.
  • Seeing friends and family after a long time? Sure, exciting, but also scary – looking for the right outfits to wear, worrying about ‘interesting’ questions or topics that someone would introduce, such as inquiring about your relationship status, or bringing up something controversial that will start a two-hour argument session. Even if they behave themselves, will they judge us by how we look?
  • Delicious holiday food and drink ? Sure, but does it also make you think about many hours you would need to spend in the gym after the holidays are over?
  • Also, cleaning, decorating and cooking if you are hosting or just driving through snow and traffic if you are the one visiting.
  • Most importantly, do the holidays feel like a special time of the year or is it becoming another ‘chore’ to add to your already busy schedule and feeling overwhelmed? Do you have any energy left at the end of the year for all these celebrations? Do you feel good about yourself? What if you did not have any significant achievements this year, or worse, had some significant failures?

However, there are ways to deal most of these concerns. Let’s start with the first one.

  • GIFTS. It is about showing appreciation and attention for someone you love. However, I am the first to admit that I am a queen of weird gifts. I presented to someone a singing fish (on a frame, the fish would sing ‘Do not worry, be happy’ while moving its head, I gave musical toothbrush, I gave my husband the gift of chips (bag of chips, he is still making fun of me), and many other weird gifts. Guess what? I am still here. People that are meant to be in your life will be there regardless of the gifts you give them. And if someone fights with you over the gift you give them, maybe they are in your life for the wrong reasons…So just do your best and get something you think people you love would appreciate regardless if it is listed in a Gift Guide or not. And ideally, try to be on the budget so you will not start next year in debt
  • MEETING PEOPLE. This is a big one, especially with all kinds of seasonal and new viruses being announced regularly. Let’s break this one down – what is actually stresses you out?
    • If it is about meeting them because of the way they make you feel (you do not like them/you do not enjoy spending time with them) – DO NOT SEE THEM. It is as simple as that. If you have tried telling them to do/not do something you do not like and they continue doing it, they do not value how you feel. And if that’s the case, why would you ruin your own holiday spirit? Every time someone tells you something you do not like, instead of having an emotional reaction to their words, approach it differently – they are showing to you WHO they are, and this is something for you to know and consider when you are interacting with them the next time. Because people that care about you will put you first and they will be afraid to make you upset.
    • If it worrying about their judgement about your life choices- e.g., being or not being in a relationship, being in a relationship with the ‘wrong person’ (according to them), not being married (divorced?) yet, not having kids yet or having too many kids – here is my answer to that – this is NOT their call. If you choose to face them during the holidays and they raise the topics that they make you feel uncomfortable, simply tell them it is not their place to ask those questions. You can respond with a question back – ‘why do you ask?’ or ‘why do you want to know?’. You can respond with a vague answer ‘time will tell’, ‘when it happens it happens’ or you can tell them straight forward that you do not like this question. If I could tell straight up my 86-year old grandmother (the one going through war) that I do not appreciate her comments about me needing to have kids now (or better yet, 5 years ago), you can do it too.
    • If it is about worrying how they might judge the way you look – it may be less about them and more about you. If you look great and there is that one person that always ‘suggests’ you could do better – tell this person to go far away (or stop having them in your life. Seriously). If you feel tired and someone notices how ‘tired’ you look – sure, this person does have poor upbringing. But maybe it is also the sign for you to take more time for yourself before the holidays – investing in massage or a facial, visiting a hairdresser, buying yourself new clothing that makes you feel/look good and/or fits, or doing something else that make YOU feel good about yourself. This way comments like this would not bother you because you will know that you are doing your absolute best (or, better yet, you will preemptively address these comments). When someone criticizes us, it is so easy to jump into reaction and response (my aries blood boils!) But maybe we should focus on what kind of people criticize us and what that tells us about them? Maybe it is jelaousy of other good things in our lives, maybe it is them being unhappy with themselves or just not knowing how to handle themselves in society.
    • Concerns about all that food and drink. Sure, there might be calories but depriving yourself will only ruin your holiday spirit. Instead, try the following:
      • try to drink a glass of water 30min before every meal
      • Try to put more veggies or salads on your plate comparing to meats and pie
      • Try to have all sweet and “unhealthy” things before lunch time/first half of the day
      • Keep in mind that drinks, hot chocolate or champagne, also have calories. However, do not drink on empty stomach
      • Take it easy – winter holidays happen once a year and beating yourself up will not improve them. Instead, introduce at least 1 type of regular excercise or walking to your daily routine
    • Cleaning before/during/after the holidays. I do not know about you but my mom is a bit on obsessive side of cleaning when it comes to hosting. In fact, she would clean the house even before going on vacations. My husband knows that I have different values – I focus on making people comfortable in my home instead of making it squeeky clean. It may not be super clean but it would be inviting and cozy – and that is what your guests want to feel. They are not there to judge you, they are there to spend time with you (and eat your food). However, to feel better about cleaningness of your house, dedicate 2 hours of your time. I noticed that as the things accumulate into piles, I stop recognizing that it exists and my brain just assumes that I have less space. It is not a bad idea to throw out everything you do not want to bring into the new year.
    • If you feel lonely this year. Some of us do not have significant others, immediate or distant family, friends and other people captured in all that typical holiday propaganda. And that’s okay. Focus on surrounding yourself with people (or pets) that make you feel good. It is possible to feel lonely when you are surrounded by your whole family. Every family functions differently and I know many families including my own where relationships are not in a greatest place. I think the worst thing you can do to your own mental health is spending holidays with someone you have unresolved issues with – it will only make things worse. It would also keep you from meeting new people. Be honest with yourself and design the celebrations in the way that aligns with how YOU feel. But yeah, if you are in a relationship and you feel lonely when they are next to you, it may be the time to speak up and address the issues or move on. And if you are by yourself and do feel lonely – maybe it is a sign that you are ready to meet new people or start new relationship, so go out or go online and find them!
    • Finally, your own mental state. How to make holidays feel special? First of all, dedicate 15-30 minutes to yourself, just so you can sit down and figure out your thoughts without looking at your phone. I noticed that I am best at analyzing my behavior when I write thoughts down on a paper or type them up on a computer. There are various methods to use, but I want you to try and address 3 important questions, regardless of the method you choose:
      • Question 1: how was this year? I immediatelly heard a deep sigh in my own head. Try formulating an answer better than that. Here are some probing questions to help you with your analysis: a) what happened b) what did you learn about the world, yourself and others? c) what did you achieve/what new skills you learned/what changed from last year/where did you travel/what did you see or experience and how did it make you feel?
      • Question 2: bringing things with you. What things from this year would you like to continue doing/having in next year? What relationships do you want to keep or evolve in the next year? What are some traditions you want to continue or keep having in the future? What did you learn about yourself that you want to keep in the next year? What things or people are you grateful for? What things would you want to stop doing and not bring with you into the future?
      • Question 3: what would you like your future year to be like? What would you like to achieve, where would you like to travel to, what kind of person would you like to become, what kind of books would you like to read, what kind of food would you like to eat, what activities would you like to do, what new things would you like to learn, what kind of lifestyle and relationships would you like to have? What changes would you like to make to your body or face, hairstyle or maybe how you dress?
    • You can capture these questions by starting a diary, making a vision board, starting a notebook of gratitude and wishes (list of things you are thankful for on one side and list of your wishes on another side, updated daily until the two sections meet – when your wish supppsed to materialize). You can also write a list of bad things and memories and burn it altogether or create a scapbook of good memories and photos to capture highlights of this year. The most important is to give yourself opportunity to process things before the holidays – and you will be in a lighter and more cheerful mood. I promise.

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