By Branden Henry
7 Suggestions for Happier Holidays
The holidays are upon us, and whether they bring a time of joy, grief, or stress for you, here are seven tips to help them work out for the best.
For many of us, the holidays put many extra miles on our cars. How can you turn that dreaded drive into something enjoyable (or at least less dreadful)? Try to make the drive pleasurable to all five of your senses.
- Sight—Load up on movies, games, magazines, coloring books, etc.
- Sound—Try listening to a new podcast, album or audiobook.
- Smell—Seriously, get something with lavender scent. Not only will it soothe and help you relax, but it can also (try to) cover up whatever smells your kids may produce.
- Touch – Dress comfortably and let your kids bring a few of their favorite plush toys, blankets, and pillows.
- Taste – Indulge. Get that candy or soda you like so much but typically stay away from. Gum is also a good way to help your kids move without moving around.
You might also try changing things up by taking a different route, or stopping at that weird attraction along the way.
Practice saying no to that family member who always seems to ask for too much. Think ahead about what you are okay with and what you are not, and get your spouse/sibling/parent to hold you accountable to set boundaries.
In his book, Boundaries: When to Say No and How to Say Yes, Dr. Henry Cloud says, “When we begin to set boundaries with people we love, a really hard thing happens: they hurt. They may feel a hole where you used to plug up their aloneness, their disorganization, or their financial irresponsibility. Whatever it is, they will feel a loss. If you love them, this will be difficult for you to watch. But, when you are dealing with someone who is hurting, remember that your boundaries are both necessary for you and helpful for them. If you have been enabling them to be irresponsible, your limit setting may nudge them toward responsibility.”
Vacation from Tech
Leave your computer at home and your phone in a drawer. Let yourself get bored with your family, and then see what happens. It is often in our boredom that we get creative. Take a walk, play a board/card game, go sightseeing, or just sit and relax.
Get curious about those family members you don’t know so well. Ask them about their story, what it was like for them growing up, when they first married, went to war, sold their house, had kids, etc. We often do not know our family nearly as well as we think we do. You will probably be surprised at what you find out by letting yourself be curious.
Holidays often bring an acute awareness of what is missing. Give yourself and others time to grieve. Often, when we allow ourselves to feel truly sad, and especially if we do so with trustworthy family members, we are able to connect to stories and memories that bring about a greater sense of acceptance and even joy.
This may not apply to everyone, but it’s okay to have a little conflict during the holidays. A few simple rules of thumb when engaging in conflict are these:
- Listen without judgment.
- Ask about what is really at stake/important for them.
- Share your emotions and thoughts without blame or accusation
- Be willing to not get what you want, and to not be “right.”
It has long been said that expectations are resentments waiting to happen.
First, try to find out what you are expecting to get out of the holidays. No matter if you are expecting a certain gift, conversation, or even peace and quiet, when you go into something with an expectation you will most likely come out of it disappointed.
Second, try to move from expectation to desire. Depending on your situation, it may be helpful to state what you want to those family members involved. It is okay to desire certain things from the holidays, but it is often disastrous to expect them.
Branden Henry LPC, LMFT, EMDR, CSAT Candidate is happily married with four children. He is a counselor at Capstone Treatment Center in Judsonia, Arkansas, where he works with adolescent males and their families.