It’s that time of year again. The holiday season is upon us. Which means most of us, for better or for worse, will be with our families. Being with family — though familiar — can inspire a sense of dread. As we approach Grandma’s house (or Aunt Jude’s, Dad and Mom’s, our brother Ted’s, etc.), we roll our eyes and prepare to be treated the same way we were treated when we were the adorable five-year-old or the rebellious sixteen-year-old. Rarely do we experience a full and welcoming embrace of our present-day selves; instead, we are constantly shadowed by the memory, stories, and expectations of who we once were, sometimes in stark contrast to who we’ve become or would have liked to become.
And then, as if stepping into a time warp, we regress. Every “button” and annoyance that we have had since we were born is suddenly activated and pressed. And pressed. And pressed. And pressed. Suddenly we feel powerless, angry, frustrated, and even hopeless. Will this ever change? Will they ever see us as we truly are? Can we possibly find a way to take back our power during the holiday season?
Absolutely! We can take our power back at any time. I assert that holiday stress is a decision, a Big Fat Lie — usually made by default — not a fact. You have the power to create what you want this holiday season.
A few moments of calm visualization and some decisive actions are all it takes. This is a two-step process: Step 1. Acknowledge when and how you give away your power, and Step 2. Decide on and commit to a plan for taking it back! You can try it out now:
Step 1. Begin by imagining your typical holiday at this time of year (Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s Eve). Imagine who is usually around you. What are the smells? What music or noise do you hear? Really be there.
Now write down your answers to the following questions.
* What really works for you about your typical holiday?
* What does not work for you about this holiday?
* Where or how do you tend to give away your power?
Now imagine that you know that this holiday season will be your last holiday season. In light of the new importance of this holiday season, consider the questions below, and write down your answers.
* What would you do differently? (Really think about it — if this were your last holiday, what would you do differently?)
* What would you say YES to? (Self-care? Patience? More time with your grandmother?)
* Who would you say YES to? (Your partner? Yourself? Your nieces and nephews?)
* What would you say NO to? Who would you say NO to? (Overtime? An old grudge? Your ever-negative aunt? TV?)
* Where would you celebrate your holiday? (At home? At Mom’s house? In Paris? In the jungle?)
* What place really speaks to your heart and soul?
* What would you make certain you’d create? (Family connection? Reconciliation? Moments of solitude to honor and appreciate life?)
* What would you risk? (Would you finally have that long-delayed conversation with your sister?
* Would you risk making your friends angry by spending the holidays abroad or alone?)
* What is the most prominent feeling you’d choose to feel? (Joy? Peace? Excitement? Solitude? Adventure?)
Great. Now imagine this new version of your holiday. Really feel it. What are the sounds? Smells? Tastes?
Step 2. Given your answers to the questions in Step 1, determine what actions you might need to take to create this new holiday. Perhaps a long look at your calendar whilst sipping tea would be in order?
* What are you planning to do already that might jeopardize the good feeling of your new holiday?
* What is a bold action that would shake up your holiday status quo and pull a more alive, joyful, and true-to-you holiday toward you?
Good. Now the only thing left for you to do is decide and commit to creating this new holiday. Perhaps that means canceling plans, changing plans, creating plans. Maybe you’ll have to let go of some previously nursed opinions or beliefs?
Here’s to your holding on to your power, and to your holiday season being filled with authentic joy and surprising ease!
Amy Ahlers is the author of Big Fat Lies Women Tell Themselves as well as a celebrated certified life coach, the CEO of Wake-Up Call Coaching, and the cocreator of Inner Mean Girl Reform School. For over a decade she has offered teleseminars and workshops to inspire women. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, daughter, and rescue mutt.