Managing Holiday Expectations
Do you tend to get more down as the holidays approach instead of happier? Do the holidays mean more stress and exhaustion in an already busy schedule?
I enjoyed Christmas in Thailand, a predominantly Buddhist country. In Thailand only Christians celebrated Christmas. It was not diluted by the non-Christians’ celebration of some meaningless holiday, and there was not the hustle and bustle of a more consumerist approach to the season.
Nevertheless, there is always that possibility of adding on more activity to an already full schedule with any holiday. In that busy-ness it is easy to get less sleep and become more irritable. What to do?
Holidays are often greatly impacted by expectations—especially differing expectations within a family, or even those internal expectations we have of ourselves: I have to fix food for guests. I have to get gifts for those being celebrated. The house should look nice. We need to all be together, whatever it takes to make it happen. And the clincher? We should all get along together with peace and joy and love in our hearts!
That is a tall order! Here are a few tips to get through the upcoming, or any, holiday:
1. Talk with each other. Get together with family, roommates, teammates, whomever, to talk about what you each expect regarding traditions. What would make the holiday special? What things would be hard, things that you would like to avoid if possible? Be open and clear with each other. Do not start to negotiate at this stage; just give opportunity for each voice to be heard.
2. Find the common denominators of what would make the time special. Think outside the box. Perhaps this is the time to start some new traditions, especially if past traditions of your home culture are not available.
3. Show respect for the desires and anxieties of each other: “What a lovely activity that would be. I sure wish there was some way to make it happen.” Do not just immediately say, “Well, that can never happen.”
4. Remember that listening to each other and valuing each other in the discussion can, in and of itself, be stress-relieving and affirming.
5. Agree on what kind of time frame will be set aside for the celebration. Put it on the calendar in ink! Make sure you also mark out any preparation time needed on the calendar. Try to be realistic!
6. Remember, perfection is not the goal. Celebration, time together, and enjoying one another’s company are the things that are really important.
May you have a peace-full celebration of the incarnation.
Question to consider: What things do you do to manage your holiday expectations?
About the author
Lynn Paulsen is the founder and CEO of Care Port Counseling, a non-profit organization committed to providing online mental health resources to cross-cultural workers, humanitarian aid workers and military. These consist of online video counseling, consulting with administrators, and links to other mental health resources at www.careportcounseling.org. Lynn spent 29 years with Wycliffe Bible Translators and SIL, working as both translator and counselor predominantly in Asia. Her heart is to provide encouragement, help and support to those working in the most isolated and stressful contexts around the world.View all articles by: Lynn Paulsen
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