Sitting with clients at this time of year, I hear many stories about what people are doing for the holidays. This can be such a bittersweet experience for many.
I talked about the significance in my last article of keeping perspective of what is truly important in your life at this time of year. If you have read enough of my articles you would know what I am going to say.
Relationships of all kinds, parents, children, friends, work associates and neighbors. We get distracted from this by the ‘have to.’ Having to decorate, having to buy gifts, have to have the perfect meal, have to visit certain people, and the list goes on.
However, I want you to think about if you really have to do these things. Then replace the ‘have to’ with the rituals of the holidays.
Rituals keep people connected. These are the memories children and people will remember. Do not lose sight of what you are trying to create. Again, it is easy to get distracted by the ‘have to.’ Think back to being a child, what do you remember? Is it the gifts, or is it memories of the rituals, the experiences?
As my daughter was growing up, we painted a small ceramic house each year. Over Thanksgiving we would go shopping for this house at the craft store, pick out the colors and then paint it by the time we decorated the house for the holidays.
We stopped painting the houses when she turned 20. However, each year we still put out the village full of houses and full of memories. My daughter will be coming home after Christmas this year and yet she asked if I was going to put the village out for her. And the answer was, of course.
Every time I look at these houses, I look at all the memories we created. I get to relive the joy of the holiday’s past. Along with making certain foods, those houses are the special memories my daughter wants to experience while she is home. Neither of these cost much money. They are about recreating the warm experiences of her childhood. This creates a sense of connection.
People who have these rituals report having a sense of security and stability by recreating these experiences. This also creates a feeling of unity, a belonging. We need to feel like we belong more than anything. This sense of belonging helps us manage and process our challenges in life.
Studies show that people who feel they belong come through diversity much easier and quicker than people who do not feel like they belong. This is also why this can be a difficult time for people who do not have family or friends around. It is not the gifts they miss, it is the connections, the rituals, the belonging.
For those people, I suggest finding a way to create new rituals for themselves, a way of connecting. Maybe volunteering your time each year at a soup kitchen, being part of an organization, or as one of my clients who moved here from another country does, invites all his friends who do not have family around for the holidays and calls it his “orphans Christmas.”
Other issues that can come up at this time of year are managing family issues. There is one word for that: boundaries. Know what you can and cannot do. Be careful not to over commit and take care of yourself. Know what you are willing to do and keep in perspective what the holidays are going to be about for you and then create that.
Just keep in mind what this time is about (relationships) and make your decisions from that perspective. You might be nicely surprised how much more enjoyable the holidays will be for you and those around you.
Wishing you all a peaceful, loving holiday season.
Reach Shelly at DrZavala.com or [email protected].