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Christmas: Santa with Elves

7 Keys to a Happy Holiday Season

Creative Commons LicensePhoto credit: cliff1066™

I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month.

— Harlan Miller

On this blog, we write a lot about resilience – the ability to come back from adversity.  The more I study about resilience, the more I’ve realized that:

  • Most of us are resilient whether we know it or not.  Very few of us give up permanently.  Admittedly some of us do, but the majority eventually get back up and into the game.  That is resilience.
  • Our self-image around resilience has more to do with how quickly we recover rather than whether we recover.  Many of us are too hard on ourselves about our rate of recovery.  Our self-judgment is that we don’t recover quickly enough.

Each time that we come back from an adversity, we learn something – usually we learn about ourselves and how to encourage our recovery – which is a good thing because the end of year madness is upon us and we’re going to need all the encouragement we can muster.

Santa Claus, Tinkerbell and the Easter Bunny

The holidays are a mixed blessing.  When money is plentiful and everyone is getting along, the time between Thanksgiving and year end can be a lot of fun, despite the stress inherent in trying to please everyone. Even when things are good, the holidays bring up unrealistic expectations of a Norman Rockwell painting.  So, what’s the best way to face this challenging season?  Here are 7 keys to a pleasant holiday season.

1. Remember that Santa Claus isn’t real, nor is the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny or Tinkerbell.  What that means is that Santa won’t be paying the bill, you will.  The reason that they call the day after Thanksgiving “Black Friday” is because it’s the holiday madness that puts the retailers into the black, i.e. makes them profitable.  I have a friend who believes that the holiday happiness formula is “buy one for them and one for me.”  But if Black Friday for retailers makes for a Red Monday for you, then you’ve created your own adversity. The more you stick to your budget, the less adversity you’ll face.  Reduced adversity is also a resilience strategy.

2. Get a clear picture of what makes for happy holidays for you.  It’s a case of you don’t get what you don’t know you want.  Do you want to see the Nutcracker or do you want to kick the Nutcracker across the room?  I have a choir that I particularly enjoy.  Unfortunately, their concert is usually a week before Christmas – in another city.  Although I’ll probably be there on Christmas, I won’t go a week early, so I won’t be seeing them – my choice.

3. Pick your battles.  Some things are important.  Others aren’t.  There’s plenty of opportunity for conflict at this time of year.  A genuine smile and a liberal sprinkling of please and thank you can make the shopping season more pleasant for you and the folks working retail.

4. Remember that everyone is stressed.  Traffic is bad.  Lines are long.  If you expect something different, you are creating your own adversity.  On Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, a friend and I went to the mall.  We expected it to be packed.  It wasn’t.  We ran several errands and as we left, there were five cars all waiting for our parking space.  We were lucky.  Next time we probably won’t be.

5. Delegate where possible. If the only person who wants to “do” Christmas is you, then you can pick and choose what gets done.  If it’s a group desire, then get the group to pick up the slack. Besides, part of Christmas is doing for others – so let everyone have a part in the doing.

6. Take the path of least resistance/expense.  Shipping is expensive.  This is another fact of life like #4.  There are ways to reduce the cost so more of your money is spent on the gift than on getting it to the recipient.  If you’re buying online, ship it to the destination directly and pay the gift-wrapping charge.  The recipient isn’t going to care if you or Amazon wrapped it.  When buying something for a niece/nephew or grandchild living across the country, have their parents buy it locally and wrap it (see #5 – Delegate).  This way the kids get what they want and what their parents approve of and you get less stress.

7. Give the gift of choice.  Gift cards give the recipient the gift of choice.  They don’t have to pretend that they love that sweater and you get the credit of a gift they truly love.  As the person who was responsible for buying all the clothing gifts given by all the adults to all the nieces, nephews, and grandkids, this is a special favorite of mine.  In most cases, I don’t even need to leave the comfort of my home.  And I can always personalize the gift by writing something like “for music that makes you want to sing out loud in joy” on the card.

The holidays are stressful.  Stress can equal adversity.  I say the #1 resilience strategy is to reduce the stress and enjoy the season.

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