Bring the "Happy" Back into the Holiday Season

      Joy is supposed to be part of the holiday season yet it is easy to get caught in stress, dread, and family misery. Psychotherapist and life coach Didi Zahariades, MA, joined us with ways to avoid the pitfalls and focus on what is important to have a very, merry holiday season.

      1. Be an Adult at the Party
      The ongoing challenge at family holiday is everyone falling back into their role of childhood.
      Example: The youngest doesn't do the dishes. The oldest feels responsible to make sure everyone gets to the event on time. It can be minimal and surface yet feel exhausting, annoying, and even bring up old resentments. It is highlighted by comments like, "She always does this!"

      Be an adult. Although others may still treat you like a teenager, you choose your reaction to their behavior. As an adult, you choose your role in the family. Others may have expectations as to how you will react, what you will say, things that annoy you, etc. It is important to not fall into the trap of behaving like your 'role' in the family and instead enjoy being the grown up you!

      2. Pick a role model to emulate this holiday season: Do You want to go to a party at the house of Martha Stewart or Blake Shelton?
      Pick a role model and consistently ask yourself, 'What would _________ do?' Most people select a cool, outgoing, fun role model. Make the holiday entertaining by being light-hearted, going with the flow, and even strive to lighten up. The level of enjoyment of a holiday function isn't measured by the perfection of the house but by the laughter & pleasure running through it!

      Be realistic in your expectations. If you are striving for perfection, recognize it is neither realistic nor something others are drawn to. The 'perfect' holiday is represented in greeting card photos & holiday movies which always have the 'perfect' family. It creates an internal scaling for an individual which is typically unattainable and increases your stress & anxiety.
      Ironically, people are drawn to fun not perfection!

      3. Put Preparation into You not just your side-dish
      Often we spend more time on the food we are bringing then our own self. Don't make the mistake of leaving you until the last minute because this can increase your anxiety. There is the outside stress of the holidays, often unavoidable, and the internal stress we put on ourselves.

      Make the decision to leave time to get ready, select an outfit, have a few minutes of quiet and leave for all functions with plenty of time. This reduces stress around unforeseen issues like traffic, forgetting something, needing to stop at the store, etc.
      Never underestimate the power of arriving calming and on-time. It will set the tone for the day.

      4. Leave Your Crystal-Ball at home; No mind-reading of Family Members
      Often you do or say something because you think it will make your interaction better with a specific person. You aren't a mind-reader. Just because you've known a person forever doesn't mean you know everything she is thinking. Provide the same breaks to your family members that you are willing to give to a co-worker or friend.
      Let their words --- just be words. Let go of your interpretation of the 'underlying' meaning and/or your belief about what he/she meant.

      For more information, including details on Didi's new book, Confident Woman, visit her website.