Based on talking to women about their holiday experiences and thinking about my own holiday history, here are some words that come to mind this time of year:
Super negative I know, but bear with me for a second.
Many of you probably associate at least one of these words with this time of year.
What once upon a time were a couple of days (Thanksgiving in November and Christmas in December) to eat something special and spend time with loved ones, has become this 7 week (or longer) long span of time during which we are told:
what to buy
what to look like
how to stay healthy
how to cook
how to dress
how our homes should look
what to do, how to feel and
where to go
...to make the most of our holiday season.
Of course most of this is because there's a lot of money to be made off of our desires to make this time of year, perfect, memorable and special either for ourselves or others, nevertheless, the pressure is still real and often palpable.
And while once upon a time there was just our mental pictures of what life should look like or the neighbors' lives to compare ourselves and our experiences to, now we have magazines, blogs, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest... all of which are sources that show a snapshot of a moment with no backstory, context, or reality.
When we are on the receiving end of so many "picture perfect experiences" it's difficult to even recognize when we are putting too much pressure on ourselves to have that perfect holiday.
So let me share a few thoughts with you.
Thanksgiving is just a Thursday and Christmas is just a Sunday (this year) and while we can free to make these days extra special with food, friends, and family, it's also perfectly acceptable to keep these days simple, if that helps us and the people around us to feel less stress and more love.
In the Smith household we are BIG fans of little-to-no fuss around holidays and prioritize mostly spending time with our small immediate family, because we need that break and downtime.
Maybe keeping the holidays simple is something that you can't manage this year and have to work on in 2017, but within whatever activities you have planned for Christmas and Thanksgiving, perhaps you can shave off a few things, be it practical or mental in nature....
Do one less thing to prep (don't iron a tablecloth, don't fold the laundry, use paper plates, )
Make one fewer dish?
Stop yourself from taking responsibility for someone else's experience
Think to yourself,
"Are there any small ways I can make this holiday a little less complicated and a little more peaceful?"
And do whatever you can!
What about comparing your experience to others?
Remember that list above?
This year, it will be easy to spy photos online of folks enjoying their holidays with their family, their children, or their significant others and feel as though they appear to have it all while you are struggling to just get through (see that list of feelings from above), there is an antidote to such feelings.
Every time you see someone having the experience that you want, looking the way that you wish you looked, or doing the things you wish you could do,
take a moment and find something in your life that you have and say to yourself,
"Why is my life so great?"
And then answer it.
Some moments you will struggle to find something positive, something to be thankful for.
Seriously your answer might be as simple as, "My life is great because I have shelter."
But what you are doing is actually training your mind to search for positive things in your life.
And like anything else, with practice, you get better at it.
The more you focus on what you have, the easier it is to view other's experiences without attaching any strong feelings to your perceptions of their lives-which by the way are wrong, because you can't possibly know what it is to live their lives.
And you know what else??!!
One of the bizarre consequences of this activity is that your brain (which runs your body) will learn to work (even unconsciously) to create positive things in your life.
By asking this question (Why is my life so great?) you are teaching your brain to find the answer to the question and a consequence of that behavior is that your brain will begin to make decisions in your life to answer the question, aka, do things that actually make your life great.