Going With the Flow of the Holidays

Karen Rigatti, Certified Professional Counselor in Milan shares her insights and some tips on keeping calm during the holiday season. Some welcomed wisdom, especially appreciated in the current, topsy-turvy era of dealing with Covid-19.

The song tells us, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year, the hap-happiest season of all.” It’s the holidays!! Are you ready?

For many people, the holidays are absolutely not the best time of the year and even if you’re a big fan of all that happens in the months from Halloween to the Epiphany (like I am), the season usually promises additional stress, and even a touch of madness. Taking a moment or two to think about your expectations and mindset as you gear up for the busy weeks ahead can help you find more ways to enjoy the season, manage your stress and keep anxiety – and maybe even some family tensions – at bay.

As I look ahead to my own culture’s much celebrated holiday this week, Thanksgiving, I realize that this time of year makes me feel as though the usual rules don’t matter quite as much. Households generally run best with a mix of routine, rules and boundaries, and although I don’t suggest throwing all of that out the window as soon as the holiday decorations go up in stores (seemingly earlier every year), I do find that both I and my children benefit from loosening the reigns. 

After two (and counting) long, grueling years dealing with Covid-19 and all the havoc it’s wreaked on our lives, finding ways to enjoy the holidays can be even more complex, but that’s all the more reason to think creatively, tune into what feels right and bend the rules. In our house, my rule has always been to decorate for Christmas after Thanksgiving. One holiday at a time, please. This year though, we’re doing it differently. My daughters, like most children who celebrate it, are big fans of Christmas, but they’ve never minded waiting to decorate until after Turkey Day (always the third Thursday in November.) This year, for whatever reasons, they started asking for all things Christmas – music, decorations, the tree – in early November. Christmas makes them happy, and they needed that earlier this year. So, we’ve been hearing Christmas music non-stop for weeks and there are decorations all over the house, well in advance of Thanksgiving. These are small things, but they seem to be making a big difference in the overall mood of our house.

Celebrating the holidays often involves travel, and while holiday travel was always a wild card (weather delays, sickness, flight cancellations), thanks to Covid it has now come to resemble Russian roulette. As I look a little further down the road past Thanksgiving to December, we are planning to return to the US for the first time in two years to see my family. A lot is riding on this. Emotion, anticipation and anxiety are running high. We NEED to get there. Yet, as we all know very well by now, things can change on a dime and there is so much that is out of our control. 

I try to check in with myself regularly to take my own emotional temperature, reminding myself that we will do our very best to get there, and if for some reason that goes sideways, it will be OK. We will still make it work, even if it doesn’t work out. By taking the time to remember that the only control I have is over myself, I feel more grounded knowing that is actually quite a lot. 

I often say to my clients that small changes can have a big impact. This holiday season, try asking what small changes you could make for yourself and your family that might make life just a little bit easier and a little more fun. You might even surprise yourself.

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