1) Get in touch with your expectations.
What are you assuming about the visit with the family, the gifts, the dinner, your supposed ‘time off?’ We are not aware of how often we get exactly what we expect because we never question it. If last Christmas wasn’t what you’d hope it would be, what can you do about this year? Plan some things to make your time fun. What does that look like?
If you are the host, are you setting yourself up for disappointment by thinking that everything will be flawless? Set your sights on how you can make things easy and yourself happy and maybe not on perfect. When the host is happy, it’s more enjoyable for everyone.
2) What do you want? What do you really, really want?
I’m not talking about gifts. I’m talking about feeling, atmosphere, experience. What do you want your holiday season to be like? How do you want to feel sitting amongst all of your relatives and friends? If you are less than thrilled by the thought of this, what can you do about it? If you know crazy, chain-smoking aunt Jane is going to insist on smoking in your house, how can you provide a nice space for her outside with a chair and an ashtray? If you can only handle the 25 people in your gramma’s 10 foot square apartment for 10 minutes, then excuse yourself after 10 minutes and go for a drive. Say you’ll be right back, and come back for another 10 minutes. Anticipate the situations and then creatively set yourself up to navigate them.
3) Be Appreciative. Be helpful.
I remember in my early adulthood going home for Christmas and waiting for my mom to get home from work to make dinner! I just assumed she was so thrilled to have me home that she would want to make me something special. I bet she would have been even more thrilled to see me if I had
made dinner for her when she got home!?
If you are a guest, or even a grown child returning home for a short time or a longer stay, you and everyone you are staying with will enjoy you more if you act less like a guest. A sincere thank you greatly enhances holiday cheer.
4) Pick your battles. The expectations and the intensity of the gatherings can certainly cause old hurts and slights to surface. If this is the time you decide it’s time to have it out with cousin Harold because he teases your 9 year old, then maybe do it away from the whole family. Decide before hand what your end goal is. Do you want to be done with Harold forever or do you just want him to understand your feelings? You can also decide that whatever is bothering you can wait for a time when it isn’t Christmas, but promise yourself to do something about it before next Christmas.
It helps to remember that your happiness is your responsibility, no one else’s. Christmas, although it can be a magical time of year, won’t magically make you happy. A bunch of heartache and misery can be avoided by looking at the way things are instead of the way things should be. When you can objectively look at the pitfalls you can avoid them and maybe even creatively fill them in. Enjoy!