We’ve all been there, and have emotional battle scars and stories to tell. Yes, it’s that time of the year again. Christmas 2016 is now behind us, and New Year’s is just around the corner.
Are you dreading that annual New Year’s dinner or New Year’s Day family brunch? Wishing you could get out of the commitment to attend the braggadocious neighbor’s annual New Year’s Eve party? No worries! The following simple tips can help you to enjoy these annual events, despite the obnoxious cousin, the nosy brother-in-law or the critical sibling. Consider adopting one or more of the following tips, to help you get through the next two weeks with joy instead of misery:
- It’s just a day. Remember that the dinner or party you’re attending is just one day out of the entire year. You’re only there for a few hours. And chances are there’s someone else at the event feeling anxious, as you do. Approach someone new or someone you don’t know well, and engage them in a cheerful topic, such as the new movie you just enjoyed, the Dow nearing the 20,000 mark, the great skiing conditions at your favorite ski resort. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
- Nothing in excess. Yes, a few spiked egg nogs or your brother’s famous Bloody Marys have a tendency to go down faster when you’re stressed, but if you’re the designated driver, it’s not worth your life or the lives of innocent people to imbibe to excess and then drive drunk.
- Workouts are good for the body, not the credit cards. Don’t allow the merriment of the season to cloud your judgement at the mall or online. It’s not the gift, it’s the thought. For example, a lovely co-worker just left a delicious assortment of fudge for each of the team members in our office, and even took the time to make gluten-free candy for another person in our office with gluten sensitivity. I will cherish the vintage Christmas tin long after these tasty treats are gone, and appreciate the thoughtfulness and work she put into this gift.
- Practice kindness. A longtime friend who is a popular member of the media has a slogan at the top of her Facebook page “Be kind to everyone you meet today, for you have no idea how much pain they may be in.” So true. As the old song says “Smiling faces tell lies.” At the beginning of that New Year’s Day brunch, go around the table, having each person pay a compliment to the person seated to their right. This task never fails to bring smiles to faces, and the things that children come up with when it’s their turn will melt even the hardest heart.
- Don’t sweat the differences. You’re never going to agree with your cousin’s political views or be comfortable with the new diet your brother and his family now swear is the best thing since the diet they adopted last year. However, that doesn’t mean you have to be miserable and dwell on the differences. Set them aside, and enjoy each other. Remember, we have no idea what’s really going on in the lives of others. A little kindness can go a long way, especially during the holidays.
- It’s okay to feel blue. You may have lost a loved one this year or faced the loss of a job or other crisis. You are not expected to be jolly just because it’s that most wonderful time of the year. It’s okay to feel sadness, loss or fear. Allow yourself to process those feelings. Give yourself permission to grieve and reflect.
- Feeling lonely at this time of the year? Despite all of the joy and camaraderie around us, for some it can be the loneliest time of the year. If you’re feeling lonely, volunteering your time this season can brighten your spirits instantly. Check with your nearest soup kitchen, toy drive, animal shelter or food distribution center for needy families. The experience you have volunteering may be one of the most joyous of your life.
- Take some time for you. With all of the planning, cooking, shopping and office holiday open houses, you may feel overwhelmed. Get out your calendar and plan for some “me” time over the next two weeks. Make an appointment for a therapeutic massage. Pencil in a couple of hours for a visit to the library, and arm yourself with a list of books you’ve been meaning to read all year. I clip reviews of books from the three major daily newspapers I read, magazine reviews, as well as highlighted New York Times Bestseller book lists. I keep them in a file, and when I plan a trip to our local library, I grab a couple of clippings from this file, hoping to include these selections as part of my library “stash.” If books aren’t your thing, plan a visit to your local zoo with a child or a visit to the local ice cream shop for a favorite sundae. Both of you will enjoy the experience.
- Revisit family traditions. I can still smell the Christmas sugar cookies baking at home as a child. My mother always added a touch of lemon zest to the sugar cookie mix before we enjoyed cutting them out as children with our Christmas cookie cutter collection. The scent was heavenly. Set aside an afternoon for cookie baking or making a few loaves of that holiday bread you made with your grandmother at Christmastime as a preteen. There’s still some time to string some popcorn or macaroni for the Christmas tree, a favorite tradition for many children. Make some gift tags out of this year’s Christmas cards by yourself or with some young ones. Or take out that decades-old Christmas coloring book you still have and get out the Crayola crayons. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how relaxing and joyous any of these activities can be.
May this season be filled with joy, love and laughter for you and yours, and may 2017 be filled with joy, laughter and love.