JOY JOHNSON: Fine-tune expectations for less stress-filled holiday

By Joy Johnson

Is there a way to make the busiest time of the year the most wonderful time of the year? I believe there is if you are willing to take an honest look at your expectations.
How many times have we fallen in the trap of trying to recreate a memory we have of past holidays? The truth is nothing stays the same. When we stay fixated on making things the same as before we are missing an opportunity to embrace new experiences. Resistance to change often leads to frustration and disappointment. Open your heart and your mind to the idea that even if there are family members missing from your celebration, or you are spending the holidays in a new place this year, you and those around you can still experience joy and contentment.
take shortcuts
Often the wonder of the season is missed because we expect too much of ourselves. If there was ever a time to take a few shortcuts this would be it. Let someone else do the cooking, say no to less meaningful gatherings and just this month, do things because you want to not because you think you have to. The pay off will be more energy, less fatigue and a sincere feeling of happiness. Warning: this could lead to more laughing and a lot of smiling.
Do you ever remember overspending at the holidays and feeling good about it after the first of the year? It is not unusual to want to overspend on those we love. Each year we are expected to pick that perfect gift, one that is going to bring the loudest squeal of surprise and excitement no matter what financial sacrifice comes with it. This year consider giving a gift that takes someone’s breath away because of its thoughtfulness.
Finally, do we expect too much from those we love? When is the last time that you asked your immediate family how they would like to spend the few days at Christmas? By allowing others to share their ideas of a meaningful holiday; you are promoting unconditional love and understanding. Ultimately there is less chance for family conflict when one feels a sense of compromise as opposed to obligation.
You can expect this time of the year to be busy. Make it a priority to experience the wonder and meaning that is sure to be around you. Happy Holidays.

Joy Johnson is a licensed professional counselor and outreach manager at the North Mississippi Medical Center Behavioral Health Center.