Holidays are interesting in that for some they are welcomed with music and dancing while others want to jump into bed, pull the covers over their heads and hide until it’s over! Each family has its own group dynamic but the holidays often add another layer of anticipation that I call the fairy-tale. Advertisers and our culture set the bar very high when it comes to all that is required to have a successful Thanksgiving celebration. Retailers have for years used the actual holiday as a precursor for their own agenda . . . the bottom line.
So, if you are getting a knot in your stomach again this year in anticipation of Thanksgiving and the holidays, these 5 steps may be helpful:
- Stay in today. Rather than dread the get-together for the next two weeks, concentrate on being “present” in your life today. How? Enjoy the sunshine; feel the warmth on your hands as you sit at a traffic light, OR sing loudly and joyfully to your favorite song on the radio, OR look yourself in the mirror and smile, OR . . .well, you get the idea.
A very wise man urged us not to be anxious about tomorrow but to stay focused on this 24 hour period we call today.
- Forget the past. Make up your mind to stop the annual ritual of remembering all the things that make you dislike getting together with your family. For example, if last year Cousin Freddie dominated the table talk with his loud, brash, megaphone mouth bragging about his new job making a huge salary; Or Aunt Daphne brought some loser last year who she was sure would be perfect for you; Or little Danny buried his head in the mashed potatoes – put it all out of your mind!
This year the by-word is “walk away”. When you feel things getting under your skin, change your environment by simply getting up and leaving the room for a bit, or going outside and getting some fresh air, or any number of things. Notice I didn’t say “stalk out”, no, this is a subtler technique. Just slip out quietly. The idea is to take care of yourself, being mindful of your blood pressure, your stress and anxiety levels, and taking small measures to keep them in check.
Prayer is another good, mindfulness tool. Getting away and re-centering yourself through a short time of prayer can be very effective.
- Before you meet the family this year choose to forgive every one of them that you have a grudge against. Why? Because the grudge is doing more damage to you than it ever will to them.
Forgiveness doesn’t require action on the part of the other person. They may never own up to having done anything hurtful. NOTE: You can forgive without someone asking you to! How ‘bout that for power? Forgiveness will set you free and stop self- abuse. Did you realize that if something only happened to you once, but you rehearse it, feeling the emotions and pain over and over, that you are abusing yourself?
Forgiveness NEVER says that what happened is okay. Forgiveness ALWAYS says, “I’m not going to let that define me or my future!” Unforgiveness holds you in a prison of sorts. If you don’t feel like you can go through the forgiveness process this year, give yourself a “get out of jail free” pass for the duration of the holiday. You deserve it.
- Slow down. If you are the one who always brings the green bean casserole or the pecan pie or whatever, try something different this year. I’m not talking about the recipe to make the dish, but use this process to get the most out of it this year. Rather than allowing a million other things to race through your mind while you are preparing your recipe, slow down and pay close attention to each step just as if it’s the first time you’ve made it. Notice how adept you are at using the paring knife or how you know just when to add the thickening to the gravy so it doesn’t come out a blob of flour. Notice how practiced you are with putting the cake ingredients together so they produce a light beautiful pound cake.
This technique can be applied in any number of tasks throughout the holidays. It always works.
Multi-tasking is an urban legend! Research has proven that when we attempt to do several things at once none are done with excellence. Respect your efforts and the work you are doing. Congratulate yourself for slowing down and enjoying the process.
- Start a new tradition. Last year at Thanksgiving I started a “Thankful Jar” and this year I am going to empty it out and read all the ways I noted that I was thankful through the year. You might want to try it! Just get a jar (some people use a box) and have a supply of paper scraps and a pencil nearby to write down things you are thankful for as they come to mind. I keep the jar on my kitchen counter because it is handy and I like seeing the jar fill up over the year.
As you learn to stay in today (back to # 1!), the “Thankful Jar” will help you be vigilant for those things that, if remembered, will keep you in a thankful frame of mind all year long.
I’d love to hear how these steps worked for you this year. Leave your comments here are like by FB page at Hope For All Seasons.