Christmas is a time of year that is charged with emotion; highs and lows and everything in between. Is it any wonder many of us end up stressed out trying to keep everyone happy? The thing is, as Kris Carr says, ‘you are not responsible for other people’s happiness’. And no one is responsible for yours. It’s up to you how you carry yourself through the silly season and how you react to the things that challenge your Christmas cheer. You CHOOSE whether your Christmas is happy, sappy, or just plain crappy!
I won’t deny that other people, changes in circumstances, cancelled plans, and unexpected interruptions will all play a part in whether or not you are able to easily choose a happy Christmas. But it is still YOURS to choose. Dealing with lots of different people with different personalities and life experiences is already a challenge. But add to it the emotional rollercoaster of the holidays and expectations of those family members you haven’t seen in ages (but always seem to have opinions), and your stress factor can go through the roof. It can make it difficult to take responsibility for your own happiness, so I suggest preparing in advance.
Here are some ways to plan ahead so that you can make this Christmas the best one yet!
Set an intention
Our intentions create our reality. An intention is like a roadmap. When you have a clear destination in mind and can clearly see all the different routes to get you to that destination it is easier to not only get there, but also to get back on track more quickly if you have to make a detour for any reason.
An intention works the same way. The intention is the ultimate destination that you can keep steering back towards when things don’t go according to plan.
So, how do you go about getting past the bumps in the road?
Visualise your perfect day, every little detail – what will you see, taste, hear, smell, and feel? Don’t get caught up in what you think you “should” be doing. Ask yourself “If I could do exactly what I wanted, and no one would be hurt or offended then what would I do?”. Focus on the emotional state you achieve when you visualise this and hold onto that as your intention.
But then – and here is the key – let go of all the details. Nothing ever goes according to plan. The details give you something to work towards, however the intention leads you to the ultimate goal. When we hold onto the details it is harder to choose to be happy when your plans don’t turn out as you designed. You focus on the fact that it didn’t happen, rather than finding the joy in the blessings you’ve been offered instead.
When something does not go to plan – which will inevitably happen – you can fall back to your intention, that roadmap to get you back on track. If you want help setting an intention, then you can download my free workbook Journaling to Rediscover Yourself – Christmas Edition.
Now, if something on your list is a non-negotiable for you then tell the people involved – explain why and what it means to you. If they do not like the idea then provide them space to think it over, ask questions and share their fears. But ultimately you cannot force them to your way; you can request it and then you have to let it go.
If, even knowing it is a non-negotiable for you, they still say no, you don’t have to make it mean that they don’t love you.
You get to choose the meaning of EVERYTHING
Just because someone crosses your boundaries or breaks your rules, doesn’t mean they don’t love or respect you. It doesn’t have to mean that they don’t care about your ideas or that they don’t want you to be happy. It’s usually a case of them not understanding things from your point of view, or simply because they have different boundaries or live by different rules. You can choose to react from a negative space, but please ask yourself whether this actually serves you. I promise you, it doesn’t. So, instead, choose to educate them or choose to let it go. The choice is ALWAYS yours.
YOU get to choose the meaning of everything. Whether to take offense to someone’s remarks about your job or parenting style. Whether to feel hurt when someone makes a joke at your expense. Whether or not you feel guilty about SOMEONE ELSE’S feelings or interpretation of a boundary you have set. You get to choose what every word and every glance means… or doesn’t mean. If you have a choice, why would you choose to come from a negative space? Why wouldn’t you choose to be happy?
Hurt People Hurt People – and it has nothing to do with you
I know it’s easier to say “don’t make it mean something” than it is to put that into practice. And I know that sometimes it can be really hard NOT to take things that people say or do personally. Sometimes it seems like there really is no other way to interpret their words or actions – they’re angry, offended, hurt – and they lash out. Remember this sentence and say it to yourself over and over again: “Hurt people hurt people”.
Some people just don’t know how to effectively communicate their feelings and opinions, especially if something you’ve said or done triggers them in some way, so they respond the only way they know how. But it’s not you, it’s them. THEY need to find a way to deal with whatever causes them to react in that way; it’s not your responsibility.
So, rather than thinking “How could they do that to me?”, “Why do they hate me?”, “They make me so angry!”, take a moment. Take a breath and reframe your reaction. Tell yourself “They must be hurting, so I’ll give them some space”. It will make a world of difference. Remember that everything we think, feel, say, or do is through the prism of our life experiences. Each person does things according to their own rules, standards, expectations, challenges… We each have our own filters, which capture information – input from the world and people around us – in their own way for us to interpret. Most of the time, those offhanded comments have nothing to do with you and everything to do with something the other person have gone through.
When we are triggered, we can do a similar exercise. Rather than taking it out on someone else, because they happened to say or do the wrong thing at the most inopportune moment, take a moment. Take a breath and ask yourself “What is triggering me? Why? What am I filtering for? And what can I do about it?” Then, guess what? Choose. Choose the filter you want to see this information through. Yes, just like swiping left to change photo filters on Instagram. Go deep and change your life filter; choose a lens of love and kindness. It will ultimately make for a much nicer day!
Build your toolbox to flex your emotional alignment muscles
Everything you think, feel and do is a choice and you have now got a toolbox that can make those choices easier. If you use these tasks every day you can build up your emotional alignment muscles, so it becomes second nature to flex them and change your negative thoughts to thoughts that serve you better.
My toolbox is full of dance and other mindful movement, grounding and time in nature, meditation, visualisation, journaling, breathwork, essential oils, mindful eating, hugs with any of my 4 boys, snuggles with my dog, positive affirmations, gratitude, setting intentions, yoga, and music.
What is in your toolbox? Make a list or a chart so you can easily see at a glance the things that are available to help you. Remember, it’s not about the number of tools in your toolbox, but their effectiveness. There is no point in having a bunch of tools you don’t or can’t use, if one really good one can get the job done every time.
These tasks – setting intentions, flexing your emotional alignment muscles, reframing negative thoughts – are not only helpful during the holiday season. This approach is something you can do whenever you are stuck in an emotional state that is not serving you – particularly if other people and their opinions/expectations are involved – to realign yourself.
My last tip is to set a reminder in your phone if you need to. Tell yourself daily that you can choose to be happy. And if you need help in figuring out what to pop in your toolbox, crafting self-care strategies is one of my superpowers! So, please reach out for a chat to explore how I can help you.