Be Intentional This Holiday Season
Ready or not, the holidays are coming! Vacations are approaching, get-togethers are scheduled, wish lists are made, and the house needs decorating. Your time is limited and your budget is tight. You want to make this holiday season joyful, but it feels inevitable it will be a recipe for chaos.
Before you dive in head first, take time to consider how you want to feel during this season. Do you want to be grateful, relaxed, excited, considerate, or loving? Pick one or two and focus on that emotion throughout the season. Make sure everything you choose to engage in intentionally contributes to that emotion. This very simple yet effective exercise will help you be more mindful rather than just going through the motions in survival mode.
Learn to let go
If you find yourself overwhelmed and unable to feel your positive emotion noted above, you have simply taken on too much and need to cut back. There is nothing on your “to-do” list worth sacrificing your well-being. Although your family loves your homemade desserts, they would undoubtedly accept a purchased dessert if it meant you would be more relaxed and emotionally engaged in the celebrations. Take a look at the tasks you are trying to accomplish. Acknowledge that you would love to be able to carry out all of your wonderful ideas, but recognize it is simply not worth the stress. What can you cut out completely and where can you take shortcuts?
This applies to making healthy financial decisions as well. Have you ever looked at your bank statement in January and whispered to yourself in quiet disbelieving horror, "How did this happen...?" If you’ve found yourself reeling from holiday overspending, know that you are not alone. It is way too easy to get swept up in the tide of joy, merriment, and financial carelessness. With the swipe of a card or the click of a button, the sensible budgeting of the rest of the year can be pushed aside in favor of "the holiday spirit." After all, there are plane tickets to buy, dinners to plan, and gifts to exchange.
When it comes to any behavior, knowing that we have the power of choice is the first step to making healthier decisions. This is a time of year that provides us with plenty of opportunities to practice our "No." We aren't obligated to attend every event or to purchase gifts for everyone we know. We aren't obligated to spend lavishly to enjoy the holidays.
Take time to sort out your priorities for this holiday season. What do you want to remember in the coming years? Chances are, your best memories of holidays past have very little to do with how much money you spent. Before you swipe, spend a moment practicing mindfulness. Am I present? Is this truly important? Will this purchase help me experience the feeling I am seeking most this season?
Sometimes the answer will be a delightful "Yes!" The plane ticket that will take you home, the thoughtful gift that is a symbol of your love or friendship, the ingredients for the meals you will share. But when the answer is a "No...", try walking away from the checkout line or the online shopping cart, and spend some time identifying what you really need.
If each purchase is a mindful choice, your January statements will be less of a wake-up call and more of a reminder that you spent mindfully.
Giving feels good
Finally, one of the most rewarding things you could do this holiday is find ways to give to those less fortunate. The holiday season can be extremely tough for those struggling with grief, financial hardship, or illness. Stepping back from obligations and traditional giving to notice who around you might need your time, company, and thoughtfulness could make for one of the most memorable holidays of a lifetime.
Once the hustle and bustle settles down, evaluate how you feel about your new approach to the holidays. Hopefully, you have discovered that keeping the season simple is worth the increased time and closeness with your family and loved ones.
Now that you have established a new norm and expectations for the holidays, you will continue to find increased fulfillment in years to come. You should feel satisfied and proud of yourself for remaining grounded during this special time of year. Before you dive in head first, take time to consider how you want to feel during this season.
Kristin Woodling, a licensed mental health counselor and certified marriage and family therapist, is the owner of Pamper Your Mind, LLC in Satellite Beach. She is devoted to providing a confidential and elite therapeutic experience to professional women seeking healing, clarity, and balanced lifestyle for optimal health. Woodling promotes strong mental health services in her community and enjoys volunteering as a mentor.