As children, my parents made us sit in rapture at the top of the stairs awaiting an official start to Christmas morning. Until the ripe old age of thirteen, we weren’t allowed in the family room until beckoned. What I’m certain was merely a peacekeeping tactic on their end created a seemingly unbearable sense of anticipation for us. Our minds raced and hearts beat faster at the thought of unwrapping toys, feasting on cinnamon buns, and drinking our body weight in sparkling cider. That day was always uninhibited bliss.
As happens with many aspects of growing older, luster fades. Those enchanting sentiments dissolve into taxing responsibilities: A need to purchase the perfect gift, craft the most delectable meal, and host an unforgettable holiday party. Each year brings with it unique pressures or difficulties which dull our childlike enthusiasm.
We feel a strong compulsion to hop on board with all that “merry” and “happy” surrounding us. By mid-October, merriment is getting under way from television commercials to department store shelves, candy aisles to festive makeup colors. We become flooded with the hype of an upcoming season. But our attitudes don’t necessarily mirror those emotions. Our internal dialogue may instead follow the path of anxiety, sadness, or suffering.
Those feelings often tempt us toward isolation. We can be quickly rendered unsociable, irritable, even hopeless. A mentality of loneliness creeps into our minds and devours the joy of every day. But there are alternatives to wallowing; there are ways to recognize our uneasiness and proceed with healthy, wholesome behaviors. We can maintain a balance of honesty and optimism while engaging with the unique beauty of each holiday season.
First, it’s about feeling all the feels. Allowing our emotions to rise to the surface forces us to face them head on. We are then attuned to what’s swirling about in our mind and better equipped to approach it. So we set ourselves an allotted time period (think minutes, not days) to acknowledge the burdens and grasp their weight. It may be a messy jumble of intricacies, but in order to win that mental battle, we must first know our enemy.
We can maintain a balance of honesty and optimism while engaging with the unique beauty of each holiday season.
Second, it’s about setting boundaries. In recognizing what emotions have been preying on our happiness, we have a better sense of how to preempt them. It’s like seeing the entrance of a rabbit hole and refusing to take another step. The feelings are real, the sentiments are there, but it’s in our power to halt any negative spiraling.
Lastly, it’s about embracing each occasion as a distinct moment. The overwhelming anxieties of any holiday season become infinitely more manageable when grasped in bite-sized portions. Every party, gathering, or gift stands alone in our mind, allowing us time to concentrate and absorb. Instead of feeling devastated by sensory overload, we’re refreshed in the joy of that instance.
The wonder of childhood glee may never be fully restored, but nuggets of splendor are available to us with every celebration. Challenges are inevitable and complications may arise, but realigning our thoughts is the most powerful tool in embracing this time of year.
How have you encountered the power of positive thinking in the midst of holiday activities?
Images via Madison Holmlund