By Anne Parker, M.A. 

Holiday worries tend to show up in two categories – worries about how things “should be” and worries about things that are beyond our control. When we can recognize these worries for what they are, we are able to put our energies in truly enjoying holiday events and connections.

Families often have high expectations about how holidays “should be”. We are easily lulled into fantasy visions of perfect holiday decorations, food, gifts, and traditions in a hoped-for atmosphere of pure contentment and joy. However, the quickest way to be disappointed is to have expectations based on those fantasies and hopes.

Often what creates stress in holiday times is attempting too many events, too many special meals, too many gifts, etc. So, instead of trying to create the “perfect holiday”, identify the two or three elements that are most meaningful and put your attention and energy into those. Allow yourself to make mindful choices about what is most meaningful instead of making choices based on what is “right” or what “should be”. Holidays will be much more enjoyable and fun if you focus on the top three and let the rest unfold in a more relaxed manner. The best holiday memories can be made from those unexpected moments that are spontaneous!

Remember to not get caught in things that are beyond your control. Here are a couple of examples.  If the plane carrying family members is late, regroup and adapt with an attitude of playfulness instead of deciding that your plans are being “ruined”. If Aunt Gladys is always critical and crabby and you’ve decided that the only way this holiday will be a success is if she is nice and in a good mood, you have set yourself up for disappointment. You can’t control Aunt Gladys or how she feels! Be mindful about not getting caught up in her crabbiness, not taking on her criticism, and put your attention and energy into what you can control.

The most important aspect of enjoying the holidays and beating the worries is to be present and savor the moments…the moments of laughter and fun, the moments of excitement and joy, the moments of connection and love. There is no need to hang on to the rest of it. Take in how everyone enjoys the meal you prepared instead of focusing on the one who isn’t pleased. Let preparations be shared and enjoy the sharing instead of feeling like it’s all up to you. Cultivate an atmosphere of enjoyment even with the unexpected or the uncooperative.

Hug your loved ones and love your hugged ones.  Happy Holidays!

Learn more about Anne Parker and her offerings at Miraval >

Read more from Anne on the Mindful Blog >

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