Holidays: It’s the most wonderful time of the year—food is plentiful, gifts are wrapped, and the entire family is gathered together. Holiday season truly is something special.
But it can also be a time of unmet expectations, disappointment, angst, and family quarrels.
Our own expectations of how the holidays should go are often the sole reason we’re disappointed in the end. We expect everyone to get along merrily, plans to run smoothly, family trauma to be forgotten, and arguments to be zilch.
We all have an idea of what our perfect holiday season looks like, and when reality doesn’t match expectation, stress builds and relationships can be damaged. This year, let’s do things differently. Let’s forget expectations and accept life for what it is—beautiful, chaotic, and sometimes far from perfect.
Here are 6 tips for managing your holiday expectations and soaking up the magic of the season.
- Be Realistic. No family is perfect, which means no family celebration is either. Instead of seeing mishaps and missteps as letdowns, view them as opportunities to exercise flexibility and resilience. Just because the turkey burned or your cousin was late to the party, doesn’t mean all is lost. Laugh it off and recognize that one day it’ll make for a great family story.
- If the issue is other people’s expectations, like children asking for gifts outside your budget, set aside time to discuss realistic expectations with them and explain that the holidays aren’t about extravagant gifts—they’re about family, joy, and gratefulness.
- Get Ahead of It. If you’re anticipating specific quarrels or difficult conversations during get togethers, spend time reminding everyone you’re looking forward to fun, laughter, and unforgettable moments together. Then create an environment that’s light-hearted, fosters fun, and keeps everyone entertained. If you’re able to get ahead of stressful situations, you can often diffuse them before they start.
- Set Healthy Boundaries. It’s vital to set boundaries with those you love. Boundaries inform others of what you’re willing and not willing to do, and take the responsibility for their reactions off of you. Need help setting boundaries? This post on our Instagram has 4 great tips to help you create boundaries with confidence.
- Take Time for You. You may feel like you have to be everything to everyone, especially with the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Recognize this as an unrealistic expectation you’ve set for yourself and give yourself permission to handle one thing at a time. Feeling overwhelmed? Take a step back and do something that brings you joy and peace, like going for a walk, watching a favorite movie, or simply grabbing a book and cuddling up.
- Talk About It. The holidays are not a time to “fake it till you make it.” No one should feel compelled to keep quiet about their concerns or act like everything’s perfect when it’s not. If there’s something you’re worried about prior to holiday celebrations, have a respectful, calm conversation with those involved voicing your concerns and setting a plan of action moving forward. Remember, it’s always best to go directly to the source instead of gossiping or venting with people who aren’t involved.
- Focus On Love. At the end of the day, the holidays are about spreading joy and love to those we care about. The only person you can control is yourself—so lead with love, sprinkle joy, be kind, and shake off as much drama as you can. For more on fighting anger with love, check out our blog post.
Unfortunately, holidays rarely live up to the expectations seen on sappy TV movies or in cheesy Hallmark cards—and that’s OK! But if you check your expectations and choose to make the best of whatever comes your way, the holidays truly can be one of the most magical times of the year.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed about the upcoming holiday season, we’d love to help you prepare for what’s to come and map out realistic expectations before diving into a complicated turkey dinner. Get in touch today and let’s get started.