Monday, December 3, 2012

The Set-Up for a Happy Holiday

“I don't know the key to success,
but the key to failure is
 trying to please everybody.”

~ Bill Cosby

If I were to name one key factor that will place your coming holidays on the continuum from pleasure to pain, it would be expectations. We all have them, whether they arise from memories of the last year or two, or from memories of childhood. In ordinary times most of us are unaware of how these little devils can undermine our happiness. So now, especially if you're a family caregiver, let's take a peek at how shifting your expectations may offer you more leeway this holiday, optimizing your opportunity for a joyful and peaceful holiday. 

Expectations of The Holidays
What are your expectations of this 2012 holiday season? On what past experience are they based? How could you set yourself up this time around to have a simpler, happier celebration? The holidays when you’re caregiving are different, yet many of us bend over backwards to try to make them the same as they were. At no other time are we so dedicated to pretending that nothing has changed. But take a minute to think about what is really important for this holiday time. Preserve the simpler family traditions, but consider tossing out your more extreme expectations of the holidays, family members, and yourself. Stay in the present moment. Generate new, creative, simpler family traditions. Focus on gratitude for what you have now.

Expectations of Others 
People are different too. Everyone is effected by caregiving. Those who are difficult may be more so. Those who are helpful may need some guidance in exactly what that means this time around. The demands of the holidays compound the regular stresses of caregiving to push family members to their emotional limit. If they need to act out, let them be. As hard as it may be to imagine, they may be doing the best that they can. Have compassion while asserting your own boundaries. You can’t make other people happy, or make them act the way you would want. You can only tend to your own state of mind and heart. Do what you can. Communicate clearly. Let that be enough.

 Expectations of Yourself
As your own stresses mount, consider lowering the bar on your expectations of yourself. Step back from any regular commitments that aren't essential right now. You can always get back to them in January. Make a little more time to decompress. Focus on your relationships more than the trappings of the holidays. Ask for a little more help from others. Holidays that are co-created have a more congenial feeling. If you find yourself stressing over how to ensure everyone's enjoyment remember, the happiness and holiday spirit of everyone else are not your sole responsibility. If you can, tell your family how you're feeling about the holiday planning this year, and then ask for their partnership to help everyone get through the holidays a little happier, a little more peaceful, a little more grateful for all that you do have.

Next week I'll begin a 2-part article that will look more closely at how you can reinvent your holiday this year. Until then, look for ways to simplify your thinking and your plan for your family holiday.

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