Like it or not, we are already at that time of year. The time that some refer to as magical. Wonderful. Inspiring, even.

If you find yourself more sympathetic to Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge or anticipate that this holiday season may be a bit more difficult to navigate than previous ones, then read on, my friend.

GIF of Michael Cain as Ebenezer Scrooge saying,

I created these tips after working with clients for over a decade.

My calendar tends to fill up this time of year with individuals who feel overwhelmed, distressed, depressed, and conflicted. I found myself saying many of the same things to these various clients, regardless of the presenting issue.  

I truly believe that if you incorporate these four tips (or even just a few) into your holiday season strategy, I can almost guarantee that not just will you survive the holidays of 2021. Dare I say it, you may actually…wait for it…thrive! And find yourself wondering where these tips have been your whole life.  

I realize that the title of this article doesn’t exude confidence. But I assure you that these tips can empower you to face this holiday season with a bit more resiliency, or just hate the holiday season a little less.

So without further adieu, my gift to you this holiday season: 

1.Nope, nein, no thanks, nopety nope.

However you want to say it, practice the art of declining. Just say no.

We have this belief that if someone requests something of us, we are obligated to agree. Why? Because we have an inherent need to belong. We crave community and if we say no to someone in our community, we fear excommunication. This happens at the unconscious level of course, which is why it’s so sneaky and powerful. Just be aware that this is happening and that it’s normal to be afraid of telling someone N-O.

Here’s what I’ve learned: I do not want to belong to a community that only takes from me or only appreciates me for what I can do rather than who I am. Don’t get me wrong, I love to give of my time, energy, and money. However, I do so on my terms and with what works best for me and my family. Have I always done this? Oh gosh no. But I’ve learned that preserving my peace is far more important than if Ammabelle or Shantay likes me for agreeing at the last minute to coordinate this year’s Christmas play.

2. Know your triggers.

Even if you’ve spent the past year in weekly therapy or meditating daily, triggers, something that provokes an unwanted response, will happen. We usually associate triggers or being triggered by something someone says to us. But triggers don’t have to just be words; they can be anything. A smell, a touch, a place, a song.

It may be difficult to know what your exact trigger is (or maybe you’re rock solid on those things that just set you over the edge). I have found that when I’m in a place of insecurity, that’s when I’m the most vulnerable to triggers. It can feel like someone turned on a switch of shame inside of me. When I’m still processing how I feel about something, I can be triggered by someone’s callous or careless words or actions.

So what do you do when this happens? Acknowledge it. Sit with it. Identify the thoughts and feelings you’re having. Get curious.

When you judge yourself or get down on yourself for being “back here,” it does you no good. It wastes precious energy and time, and ain’t no one got time for that. Give yourself grace, but don’t be quick to fix it. Instead ask, “What is this teaching me? What am I to learn from this?” Just that shift makes a huge difference. And you’ll find that you are not being controlled by it. 

3. Set your intentions.

Have you ever thought about why you put up the decorations, buy the presents, or go to all the holiday events? Because that’s what you have to do. Duh, Courtney. But why? So you can check it off your list?

Here’s what I want you to consider: what is your intention for the holiday season? Is it to show others how much you care about them with gifts or shared meals? Is it to demonstrate the magic of believing in something bigger than ourselves to your kids? Is it to share an experience like a children’s play or a choir concert that creates memories amongst attendees? 

There is no right or wrong way to celebrate (or abstain from celebrating) the holiday season.

You’re not doing it wrong if you don’t send out a Christmas card. You’re not doing it wrong if you don’t throw a White Elephant party. Instead of getting swept up into the swirl of red and green and gold and silver, ask yourself, “How do I want to feel this month? This holiday season? This specific holiday?” Then, take actions that allow you to create that feeling. When things come up that don’t align with your intentions, see Tip #1. 

4. Fill your cup.

If you let it, the holiday season can suck the life right out of you. Here is what I want you to consider: how am I caring for myself? What am I doing to fill my cup? How am I handling the overwhelm? We are so quick to undervalue our own needs, to think that we can run on empty despite the warning lights telling us otherwise. 

If you know that Christmas caroling brings you so much joy, I hope you sing with a big ole smile on your face. If wrapping a million gifts lights you up, crank that Christmas music and wrappity-wrap. If putting the kids to bed early so you can sip some Gluhwein in the quiet is your happy place, then Probst, my friend. You have to believe that you are worth that self-care, because if you don’t, no one is going to offer it to you (maybe your partner will, but that’s not their job).

Fill your cup full first. You deserve it. And everyone wins in the long run when you do.

cup of tea, candy canes, wrapped gifts, and pine branch evoking a holiday feelingTo be honest, I really do love this time of year.

People tend to be a little kinder and a little cheerier, and being a parent allows me to see the magic of this world through my children’s eyes. Please remember though, when Carrah with an extra “r” and an unnecessary “h” asks you to bake three dozen gluten-free vegan holiday cookies, just say no. Unless, of course, doing so brings you joy, and then you bake your little heart out.