Holiday S.O.S.

Some Tips on Surviving—Even Thriving Through the Holidays

We all know there’s no such thing as a ‘perfect’ holiday season, but too often that’s where we put our focus and energy. And why shouldn’t we? That’s the message that resonates in the commercials, TV shows, and movies that influence us from October through December. Below are three fairly simple tips to not only survive, but thrive, this month. Happy Holidays!

Aiming for the Holidays of Imperfection

The first tip for thriving through the holidays is to manage expectations. Several years ago, I set out to have what I called “holidays of imperfection.” My goal was to manage expectations and prioritize where I put my energy.

To pull this off I kept my to-do list short and didn’t worry about checking it twice. I didn’t use fancy wrapping paper on my gifts; they were from the heart and didn’t need the extra worry to get them just right. I changed my expectation of having all of the family together and instead enjoyed the time I had with them—the laughs, love, and hugs with those that showed up. I ate the dough while baking my favorite cookies, played Christmas music in my car and watched goofy Hallmark Channel Christmas shows.

What I found was that planning imperfection gave me the freedom to do what I loved the most. I felt a bit mischievous, but I replaced my holiday ‘shoulds’ and enjoyed the season—even with its natural ups and downs.

In times of difficulty look for examples of resilience

For some of us, times have been rough this year—with natural disasters affecting our family and friends across the country, and around the world, and other struggles and even tragedies. Due to circumstances beyond our control, our holidays may not be as cheerful as we hope. In times like these, we should look for examples of resilience—it’s in our roots as a nation. Our country was established on a steadfast pattern of being resilient in difficult times.

Do you know the circumstances surrounding the first Thanksgiving, all those years ago? America’s first Thanksgiving was after a devastatingly harsh winter. Forty-eight of the original 102 Pilgrims had died of scurvy or exposure. The Native American populations had just suffered a lethal plague, with some villages suffering a 90 percent death rate. The Patuxet Village, where the Pilgrims first colonized, was completely wiped out.

And yet, amidst these extreme challenges and sufferings, the 1621 Thanksgiving party joined together to pray, share their harvest, have fun, and express gratitude. One of the games played was literally ‘Kick the Shins.’ You may want to watch football instead!

Look for the good—look for ways to bounce back from the adversities and difficulties life sometimes throws at us. If it can be done in 1621, it can certainly be repeated with our commitment to freedom, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Slow down enough to savor the season

Let’s just agree: there isn’t enough time, money, or energy to do everything we’d love to do in the holiday season. But let me share a secret that may give you more of these critical resources. The secret is to practice savoring.

Right now, remember the best food you’ve ever tasted. Can you recall the moment you first put it in your mouth? What was the smell, the taste? Picture in your mind how it looked. Were there sounds around you at the time you bit into this food? Savoring requires that you are totally present in the moment and that you evoke multiple senses: sound, sight, touch, smell, and taste. It’s like taking a 3-D picture of a moment in time with such detail that when you look at it, you’re taken back to that exact experience.

What would happen if you began to savor more moments this holiday season? It will require you to slow down and find delight in the special events you’ve planned, but also in preparing for those events. Savor wrapping presents with love, seeing the twinkling lights, trimming the tree with favorite ornaments, and expressing appreciation and good wishes to friends and family. Savoring requires no more time, money or energy—but you may be surprised at how practicing this skill, just a little, can increase your sense of abundance in all things.