This is my favorite time of the year. Starting with Thanksgiving all the way through to New Year’s there is a special feeling in the air. There is excitement and anticipation. There is a feeling of kind heartedness, generosity and gratitude. And then about this time every year, less than two weeks before Christmas, there is a feeling of stress that starts to creep in. The days are ticking down and the to-do list is getting longer. The burden of the “perfect” outdoor lights, indoor tree, Christmas card, wrapped gifts, table scape and gourmet meal start to weigh down on you. A few years ago as I hurriedly rushed around the mall, weaving in and out of people, impatiently waiting my turn in line, it hit me – this is supposed to be fun. What happened to the joy of the holidays?
Over the last few weeks, I had the opportunity to lead two journal workshops on this exact topic. I knew I was not alone in my feelings of getting so “wrapped up” (pun intended) in the day to day tasks of holiday preparation that it stopped being fun. Ever since my moment in the mall, I’ve made a conscious effort to remember joy throughout the holiday season and I wanted to share some ideas that have worked for me over the last couple years. One of our exercises was to write down what we think of when we think of the holidays. In one column we listed all the emotions that we associate with the holidays and in the other column all the physical things, like the tree, gifts, etc. After writing down everything we could think of, we looked at how the emotions aligned, or did not align, with the things that were on the list. We discussed traditions that we were maintaining that we really didn’t even enjoy. We discussed things that were on the list just because everyone else is doing them. We then prioritized the emotions and the things, which ones meant the most to us and which ones should we try to eliminate. Emotions like stress and family drama were definitely on the elimination list, but how to eliminate led to a great conversation. We talked about the work that Shawn Achor has done studying happiness. His research has shown that happiness and negativity are contagious. We have far more influence on those around us than we might realize. Our mirror neurons instinctively reflect happiness, someone smiling at you, or negativity, someone impatiently waiting for a plane, around you. (You can watch the talk here.) We concluded that family drama may be inevitable, but that we all have a choice on how we are going to approach it and what we are going to do.
At the end of the workshop, I left the group with a challenge and now I’m challenging you too. Whenever you see the word “joy” use pause for a minute and check in with yourself. If you are feeling stressed, take a deep breath and reset. Let joy bring a smile to your face and a reminder for the reason for the season. You may have seen pictures of “joy” popping up on my Facebook page or others tagging me in pictures they’ve posted of joy. Yesterday a co-worker came back from lunch with a "joy" decoration for her desk (picture above). As I was driving home from work listening to a local pop station, the name of the song I had heard dozens of times, had the word joy in it and I never realized it. Joy is all around you, all you have to do is look for it.
Has the stress of the season sucked all the joy out of your holidays? I know how hard it can be and am here to help. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let's set up a time to talk.
I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.