Holiday Season Thoughts
It happens every year. I can set my watch by it. Clients come into the office, stress written across their faces. “There’s no way I can get everything I’m supposed to do at work done by the holidays. Then there’s the cards, gifts and everyone’s expectations of me. I’m tired of the endless parties and seeing people I really don’t care to see. It’s just a mess. I need time for myself. This can’t happen again next year!”
I remember the holidays in Cheshire, Connecticut, where I grew up. On Christmas Eve I would take a walk down the small country road where we lived and, if it wasn’t snowing, I’d look up at the brilliant stars in the cold sky. I especially recall Christmas Eve 1968, as Apollo 8, the first manned mission to orbit the moon, arrived in lunar orbit. Looking up into that starry sky, I said a brief prayer for Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders, asking God for their safe return to Earth. For me, that was the most beautiful Christmas of all. And it was so simple.
Somehow, we lose track of what matters, what is authentic, when the holiday season inevitably arrives. In advising busy executives and professionals, I typically point out the following when holiday stress takes its toll:
- A month after the holidays, with a few precious exceptions, the gifts and cards are history. No one will remember
- Buying more stuff and doing more stuff only leads to more stress. If you are buying more stuff and doing more stuff to impress or keep up with others, you are wasting your time and emotional energy
- Lower your holiday season expectations by a factor of ten. Letting go of ridiculous expectations brings almost instant relief
- Experience exceeds quantity. Time spent on self-care and time spent with significant others is time best invested. Remember, once the moment is past, you never get it back. A memory of a special holiday season moment beats another gift every time
- Finally, we can’t change others. Not during the holidays, nor at any other time. If you find yourself thinking “if only Aunt Betty would not lecture Uncle Fred about money at the dinner table this year, I would be happy,” you know your’re headed for trouble. Aunt Betty won’t change, no matter how much you seethe inside as she drives up the driveway. What you can do is reframe your thoughts as unwanted visitors arrive, and work on how you will act and react. Perhaps next year you will recognize that inviting them is not authentic. Remember, you have 100% control over your actions during periods of holiday stress. When you know your boundaries and adhere to them for your own well-being, stressful holiday moments are easier to navigate
We only have so many holiday seasons in a lifetime. So many of them are wasted doing inauthentic things and giving inauthentic things to inauthentic people. What would an authentic holiday season look like? How would you change things so the season of stress you dread becomes a welcome period of rest, time with a those who matter most, and a time of reflection on the year that is past, and the year that is to come? That change is in your power. It is not too late to make this holiday season one you will recall, and smile.
John P. Schreitmueller is a credentialed executive coach practitioner, and works with senior executives and busy professionals on achieving their authentic goals in work and in their personal lives.
Copyright 2016 by Resolute Consulting Group LLC