Let the Mistakes Be… New Traditions?
Forgot the cranberry sauce? Maybe a guest has a great idea for how to innovate an alternative. Miscounted the spaces at the table? A Christmas picnic or a lighthearted impromptu game of musical chairs before sitting for dinner might be the memory that sticks for people — and may give birth to a new tradition.
One holiday bonding experience happened one year when we were hosting Christmas dinner for friends and discovered that our kitchen had a mouse. We called our friends and asked if we could bring food to their house and cook there. The last-minute change, the pulling together in a pinch, solidified our friendship. Mistakes and glitches are often the shortest distance between two people if you have the right spirit about it.
Pace Yourself and Schedule in Down-Time
Having a week off for the holidays can feel like winning the lottery: You’re flush with time and yet, like winning the lottery, when you start divvying up the pot of who is going to get what– or, in holiday break terms, who you’re going to see when — you may end up feeling broke, with nothing left for you. Rather than end winter vacation feeling like you need a vacation, do what marathoners do. Pace yourself. Schedule in some coasting time. Would you like to sit and read the paper (or similar) once during the holidays? Put it in your calendar. Block out the time and enjoy. Repeat when possible.
Finding Joy: Savoring the Moment
I like to think about the one thing that I want to notice during the holidays. Yes, I know I’m scripting it ahead, but bear with me — my ability to live in a clutch-free or cling-free manner of zen present-centeredness is still under construction. For me, it’s noticing that moment at the holiday table when everyone is contentedly eating and conversation is flowing and my only wish is exactly what I am experiencing right then. Sometimes that picture doesn’t happen, and something else happens that hits that spot. Be on the look out for that one moment where you stop worrying about what’s next and you’re thoroughly savoring what is.
Turn the Focus Outward: Help Others
Anxiety and worry turn the focus inward — the critic in your head has a strong bias toward “that’s not good enough.” Unplug that microphone, get out of the spotlight and focus on others: Volunteer time if you’ve got it, contribute if you don’t. It doesn’t have to be a pot of gold, donating clothing or canned goods can make a great difference to a family in need.
So this year, forego the worry and give yourself more breathing room. In so doing, you will give joy, gratitude, and contentedness a wider berth to find their way into your life for the holidays and beyond.
Copyright Tamar Chansky, Ph.D., author of Freeing Yourself from Anxiety (DaCapo, 2012).