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  • Steven Sutton, LCSW

What To Do With The Holidays?

We recognize that this year is different than others and not everyone will be engaged in holiday celebrations the way they normally would. That said, we want to encourage you to mine this article for usefulness regardless of what plans you have for the holidays. Also, check back in the next couple of weeks to get some thoughts on making the most of holidays when you might be more isolated that usual.

For some of us, the holidays are filled with stress and less than desirable feelings. Many have family obligations that they do not look forward to. It can be easy to lose sight of a powerful way to celebrate holidays, so I want to invite you to join me in thinking of them this way: Holidays are a placeholder on your yearly calendar to remind you of what is important, and to choose to show up powerfully in your relationships.

Here's 4 ways you can do that:

  • Consider the people you'll be around this holiday season. Ask yourself, "what do I want them to know?" If that questions seems too broad for you to easily answer, good it was meant to be. Let go of trying to understand what I'm asking for and instead just let the question wash over you and observe what arises in your heart and mind. Think of a person you will see this holiday season and clarify with yourself what you want them to know. Now make a plan to communicate what you want them to know during the holidays.

  • Next, practice tapping into your natural curiosity about the people in your family. Instead of accepting the old roles you play and the ways you see your family members, notice all the things you don't know about them and their lives. How much to you really know about your parents or siblings inner world? If we pay attention, we may realize it's not as much as we assume. Consider asking an older loved one what their life was like when they were your age. Ask a relative or family member what they remember about you at another time of your life. Tell someone something significant and genuine that you're going through in your life now and ask them if they have ever navigated something similar. By getting in touch with your natural and sincere curiosity about the people you interact with at the holidays, you can elevate the conversation and connect in a way that will improve the experience.

  • Coach yourself that very few people know when they will celebrate their last holiday while they're celebrating it. This one may be your last, or your loved one's last. We have no assurances of longevity. Coach yourself to notice the warmth or appreciation you hold for the people around you rather than the urgent stressors that too often characterize family obligation. Try to see your loved ones as complete people rather than the institutions of father, sibling, mother, or in-law. Decide to take the lead to behave towards them as though you do not have limitless opportunities to interact, because you don't.

  • Try doing something unexpected that sounds good to you. Ask someone to take a walk with you and start a high quality conversation. Encourage your group to begin a new ritual that sounds fun to you like playing a game or exchanging gratitude at the dinner table. Take a risk, don't be afraid to be corny for the sake of endowing the occasion with warmth and love. No matter what happens as a result of your efforts, you can feel good about yourself knowing that you invited people around you to access the best in them. You cannot control how they respond to the invitation.

Practice these ideas and bring the best of yourself to the holidays this year. The person who stands to gain the most if you do is you. Give it a try and let me know how it goes, feel free to comment below.

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