Let’s face it, there are aspects of the holidays that can be overwhelming. It is a busy time of the year, and, for some of us, being around so much family can be stressful even when everyone gets along. For others, the desire to be with family members who are no longer with us can bring profound feelings of loneliness and sadness. Still, others have suffered tragedy and heartache, always to be reminded each time the holidays roll around. It can be a real ba-humbug time of year for many people. But it doesn’t have to be that way! You can actually be an architect of your holidays so that they meet your expectations.  How?

Seek out and find the support you need! Don’t be afraid to seek help. I want to share a client story from last year.

I was contacted by a lovely woman who had a horrible tragedy occur in her life on New Year’s Eve when she was just 18 years old. She felt this event negatively affected her entire life. She reached out to me for help, and we worked together to release negative energies related to this incident throughout the holidays. I was so happy when I received a note from her saying that she felt like the work we did together literally saved her life! Help can be found in a lot of places. There are trained professionals, and there are those who love you and want to help. Please be ok reaching out for, and receiving help.

I have several other tools that I use to keep me in the spirit of the holidays that I would like to share.

Begin by counting your blessings. This can start now as you begin to plan for Thanksgiving. Try journaling a few things daily for which you are thankful for. I am thankful that I am able to host my family and that many of us live close enough to be able to be with one another. I am thankful that I can easily cook for 12 people. I grew up in a large family, so cooking for 9 was a daily event. Some of you may be thankful that you won’t have to be the cook! Whatever it is, being aware of your blessings can help turn the corner on holiday blues. Find your own unique way to share what you are thankful for and see if you can get others to share too.

Remember those who are less fortunate. I feel more connected to my community when I remember my neighbors. I want others to know that they are not alone, and there are many ways to help others! You can donate to your local food bank, Tree of Sharing, or drop spare change in the Salvation Army bucket. This year, I am volunteering to wrap presents for the Tree of Sharing organization!

Another thing I love, love, love to do is invite someone who is alone for the holidays over to spend time. I recently extended an invitation to a woman I met at church. Her husband was deployed and I found out she would be alone over Easter.   She agreed to be a guest at our table and we have been good friends since. Lucky me!

The options are endless and the kindness of others is what keeps your community vibrant. It also keeps the focus on others and lifting them, which will help lift you!

Accept the gift of invitation from friends. Another client recently shared that with the passing of her mother, she would be alone for the holidays. I immediately invited her over because I love, love, love to do this. But, she advised that she didn’t want to be a third wheel and that she always gets asked by friends to share the holidays. I encouraged her to graciously accept and receive this gift of friendship! She hadn’t considered that it would be a blessing for her friends to have her with them. 

Recreate the holidays to suit you. Another dear friend of mine travels daily for work. Sometimes she is on 3 or 4 flights a week. Her kids are grown and she doesn’t like “to do” the holidays so she has recreated what works for her. She uses her hotel and mileage points earned and treats her kids to a fun family vacation, where they eat out!!! One year, they went to the Macy’s Day Parade in New York, another year was spent in Miami, and this year it is the Hawaiian Islands. You may not want to go this extravagant, but with some planning, you can create your own unique holiday experience.

If you like to be with family and friends, but feel it is stressful too, just remember they are not dignitary! If you have a lot to do and someone offers to help, please say yes and then have them help! Better yet, if you are hosting a big dinner, find jobs that are easily done by others; such as, opening the wine, pouring water, carving the bird, whipping the whipped cream, or washing pans and drying pans.  The list is endless! It will make your guests feel welcomed and helpful. Plus, they like hanging out in the kitchen where the action and taste testing is happening.

If you are a guest, please ask where you can help and then pitch in!

And while I am on the subject of family and friends, I believe it is a choice to get along! Extending kindness where it isn’t deserved is the definition of grace. It is a choice to be able to be in grace toward those who may have hurt or offended you. But, sometimes the divide runs deep. If that is the case, then it may be best to spend the holidays away from those who have caused you pain. This way, you are truly creating personal joy for yourself and others.

Last, but not least, treat yourself to some extra TLC. Be aware that this is a time to not only connect with others, but to connect with yourself too. Carve some time to treat yourself to something just for you. Think about a facial or massage for yourself. Hot chocolate, a fuzzy blanket and a good book can do the trick too. You might have the humbugs, and not feel like it, but once the pampering begins, settle in and enjoy!