The holidays have been known to increase pressure, stress and overall busyness. Over a three week period, we attempt to fit it all in. Of course, this time period varies and can become considerably longer, depending on how easily we are swayed by retail pressure that ramps up in early fall.
Every last ‘ought to’ and ‘should go’ is stuffed into the whirlwind of it all, tempting us to lose our cool or at the very least, rob us of our joy. But isn’t enjoying and celebrating with our loved ones what this season is supposed to be all about?
My sense is that the busyness, pressure to find the perfect gift, added lines-up, traffic, and belief we should be hosting and toasting every night of the week, inevitably causes us to lose sight of the feeling we are all after — joy.
In an attempt to stop the madness and instead relish these next days of the holidays, I made this list of reminders to let go of the seriousness of it all. To instead embrace the opportunity to be playful and soak in every last bit of joy. If you feel like you have room to switch gears and experience more joy, try these ideas out and see if they fit.
Playful Tip #1: Set the Tone
If you are hosting and you want your guests to be light and have fun, then set the stage and ambiance to encourage this to happen. Be happy and light, perhaps put on some fun music and set the tone the moment your guests arrive. Better yet, bring out a board game to entice people to interact and connect. There is no need for the focus be a perfect display of hors d’oeuvres and baked goods that you either slaved over for days to prepare, or stopped at five different over-packed stores to find. This of course only applies if you don’t actually enjoy preparing a spread. If baking and cooking is what brings you joy, then carry on and soak in every moment of this creative time and space.
Whether you’re a host or a guest, don’t worry about what you have or don’t have, what the dynamics will be or won’t be. Instead, focus on one simple thing — experiencing moments of joy. Even if they are only felt by you.
At the end of the day, despite the pressure we may put on ourselves, we aren’t actually in control of all that much. All we can truly do is put in our best effort, focus on what we are grateful for and know not everyone we are surrounded by is going to be on the same page — and that’s okay.
Playful Tip #2: Let it Go
Whether it’s doing the dishes while you have a house filled with guests, wanting to get the last word in, or choosing to confront a relative on an issue you’ve been bothered by for years — just don’t, and see what happens instead. Why now? Don’t allow the added stress of the holidays to lure you into losing your patience or initiating heated discussions that would be better off had when things are calmer. Rather than feeding a story that causes us to suffer or distracting ourselves so we don’t enjoy the people in front of us, use the time over the holidays to see the best in others and in ourselves. Be gentle.
There is nothing worse than guests arriving to a host/hostess who is wound up or steeped in martyrdom about how much work it is to have everyone in. If it is too hard and not fun, why bother?
Either let go of the need to host if you don’t enjoy it, or let go of the need to bitch while doing it. If you catch yourself going there, laugh at yourself. Then ask yourself what you can do in the moment to see your joy and have more joy.
If we are blessed enough to be hosting, it usually means there are people in our lives who are willing and perhaps even wanting to spend time in our company. If we have something to give them, we are even more blessed to have the resources to be able to have an offering of food and drink.
The best gift we can give ourselves when we feel overwhelmed, is to put life in perspective at a really basic level. This helps us let go of the detailed stories that may be running through our heads. With less to worry about, we can put our focus on what is going well.
Playful Tip #3: Choose Joy
Here is the playful part: there is always a way to choose joy and have fun. Remember what it was like when we were small children? Laughing, having fun and searching for joyful opportunities were natural places to go. Allow yourself to go there. When we stop taking ourselves and everything around us so seriously, the opportunity to be playful appears.
Instead of plugging into your smart phone and experiencing more sensory overload while you wait in the grocery store line-up, be present and look around you. Smile, be open, and I bet you’ll find that there is someone else also standing in the line-up just like you. Someone who is also open to sharing lightness, humor or simple connection. Strike up a conversation, keep it light and focused on the positive, you may even share a laugh — stranger things have happened.
Turn up the music and dance while you cook. If you have kids, nieces/nephews, grandchildren etc. take time to play with them — take their lead. They will steer you in the right direction every time if you allow them to.
When you’re out in the busyness or surrounded by opportunities to connect with others: choose acceptance over judgment, connection over distraction and love over resentment. Know there is always fun and joy in the moments we are in — we simply need to embrace them.
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