Spreading Holiday Cheer in a Helpful Way

December 02, 2010

This was not a post that I intended to write, but it has become evident in my work this week that it is such a necessary topic this time of year..

Little white christmas tree

photo by Thijs Knaap

When you’re working with kids this time of year, one thing becomes extremely evident: kids freak out this time of year. It is a culmination of things, including the usual suspects such as excitement and overwhelming joy at the prospect of writing their Christmas lists and getting all of the presents they have been wishing for all year.

The holidays also represent anxiety, loss, and past hurt for many people. It is a time of year where we are reminded of those that we love that have been lost, traditions that have changed or are in the process of changing, and overwhelming emotions.

Marzipan candy in a store window in Florence

photo by Alaskan Dude

And there is no reason that this needs to be specific to kids. This is a global issue, one that leads to heightened emotions, misunderstandings, and enormous pressure to perform. This pressure to perform can manifest in many ways: having the finances to fund the Christmas of your dreams, look perfect at your family Christmas party, defend your lifestyle choices, the need to feel happy all the time, and an overwhelming urge to create individualized concepts of “perfect holidays.”

It can be almost unbearable, and it can be very lonely if you feel like you are just not having quite as much fun as everyone else.

So what does that mean? Be nice to people this time of year! Cut people a little slack if they are distant/emotional/angry/sullen/exhausted/anxiety ridden – you never know what they might be going through.

It is also a time where we need to pay particular attention to our personal needs, as described in Learning to Love Yourself During the Holidays, but in a much less concrete way – it is a time where we need to dig deep and be especially sweet and patient with those around us.

photo by nerissa’s ring

My personal preference for the holidays is a “less is more” model, wherein holidays consist more of rampant pajama wearing, book reading, movie watching, late night chatting, morning coffee drinking, and generally moving at a very slow pace. This can quite frequently come in direct contrast with the overwhelming urge to BUY MORE, cook huge feasts for everyone you know, look perfect in every holiday picture, and make sure that everyone is having the most perfect and best possible holiday.

In similar ways that we discuss the damaging ramifications of demanding perfection of your body, demanding perfection from your holiday celebrations can be equally dangerous. It leads a huge door open for disappointment, pressure, and not feeling like you are living up to expectations – all of which are absolutely no fun for anyone.

I would like to take this moment to propose that THIS YEAR you take extra measures to take care of yourself, no matter what. We so rarely know how to put ourselves first, and I find that it is always most evident during the holiday season.

Instead of working to look like the perfect family or cook the perfect meal this year, lets focus on loving one another to the best of our capabilities and loving ourselves as much as possible as our first priority.

Once all of the pressure is off, I’m sure that your heart will thank you.

I am also a firm believer in random acts of kindness during the holidays as an attempt to keep my spirits high, and help those around me. Good holiday kindness tips include:

  • tipping your server a little something extra for a job well done when you go out to eat
  • pay ahead a toll for the person behind you
  • taking a moment to smooch your sweetheart under some mistletoe
  • taking a long hot bath and reading a book, even when you’re supposed to be getting ready for a party or stuffing the turkey or at a store buying presents
  • buy local Christmas presents
  • treat salespeople with kindness, even if you are stressed out, and wish them a happy holidays
  • take time out of your day to do something active and enjoy your surroundings
  • buy gifts for those less fortunate than you
  • donate your time to local organizations
  • get down on the floor and play with children
  • tell people that you love them and appreciate having them in your life

What small steps are you taking to make yourself and others feel loved this holiday season?