For most of us, the month of December arrives with equal parts excitement and anxiety. The holiday season brings with it so many fun and meaningful opportunities to connect with your loved ones, but we can easily become overscheduled and overwhelmed with all there is to do. We often feel a lot of pressure to do everything or orchestrate a perfect, pristine family Christmas. On top of all this, the holidays can remind us of painful memories or experiences from our past or create family conflict in all the hustle and bustle. If we aren't careful, our holiday season can begin to feel less like It's A Wonderful Life and more like The Nightmare Before Christmas!
How can we get a handle on all of the busyness and chaos that the month of December can bring and make the most of our relationships and experiences this holiday season? Here are seven strategies you can use:
1) Don't forget to practice self-care! With all of the additional parties, events, and get-togethers fighting for real estate on your December calendar, it can be easy to let your self-care routine go. This month, be intentional about getting enough sleep, putting healthy, nourishing food into your body, and exercising.
2) Try something new. Research shows that trying new things can help us retain positive emotions while minimizing negative ones. In relationships, frequently having new experiences together can increase overall relationship satisfaction. Thinking out of the box and trying something new with your family or loved ones can help make your holiday season feel more meaningful and memorable.
3) Carry on a holiday tradition. Our holiday season shouldn't just be about new things, though. Participating in family traditions can help deepen your sense of connectedness and purpose this holiday season. Traditions can serve as a great reminder of our values and positive experiences, and create a deep sense of togetherness with those you love.
4) Practice gratitude. The well-documented benefits of intentionally practicing gratitude are nearly incalculable! Gratitude can increase your positive emotions, deepen your relationships with others, encourage intimacy in your marriage, and foster resilience. You'll enjoy your holiday season more and feel less stressed by it if you making a point of noticing the things for which you are thankful.
5) Tell stories of Christmas past. Telling our important stories (even the difficult or painful ones) can help us process the events of our life in healthy ways, make sense of our history, and see things from different perspectives. Retelling happy memories can increase our ability to remember our positive experiences. The act of telling your story to a loved one can deepen your bond with them this holiday season.
6) Be fully present through mindfulness. If you've ever considered starting a mindfulness practice, now is the time to do it. Practicing mindful awareness can help you truly appreciate and cherish the wonderful moments the holidays bring while helping you weather any emotional storms that show up along the way. Learning how to notice your emotional state or breathing may even make you less reactive when your great uncle brings up politics over family Christmas dinner!
7) Reconnect with loved ones near and far. The holidays can be a perfect time to deepen your connections with others. In all your family events, try to make time for meaningful conversations with those you care about. If you are in a relationship, make time for the two of you apart from the hustle and bustle.
We all want our December to be full of meaningful experiences that connect us to our loved ones, but some days it feels like the best we can hope for is to just make it through. By intentionally practicing these strategies this holiday season, you can do more than just survive Christmas; you truly can thrive!