The holidays can sometimes feel like one long list of obligations. You have to figure out which gifts to get for whom and how much you can afford to spend. You have to write holiday cards/notes/emails at least to some people, once again figuring out what to whom.
You have to figure out which relatives/friends you have to entertain, spend time with, tolerate, try not to argue with. You have to travel at the worst possible time of year given weather, traffic jams and airport/train station chaos. You have to jam your ordinary chores in with all the not-ordinary chores such as when are you going to find all that time to go shopping? Not to mention dealing with demanding, unruly, hyper children/grandchildren all along the way…
Ah, the holidays! But here’s the thing: the more you come at the holidays with a “have to” “got to” approach, the more harried and stressed you will be. Instead, if you adopt a “want to” “get to” approach, everything will go much better for you.
So before you dash off into the rain/sleet/snow/traffic to do whatever it is, take a moment to sit down and reflect how you view the holidays and what they really mean to you. That’s the first step.
What do you want to do in terms of gift-giving? There’s a world of difference between “I want to get Aunt Julia something she’ll really enjoy” and “I have to get Aunt Julia something decent.” Which feels better?
“I want to get my 5 year old a present she’ll enjoy and I have $20 to spend on her gift,” versus “I have to somehow manage to get my 5 year old something she’ll like on just a measly $20.” Both are true statements, but one is likely to cause you anxiety and stress, the other will inspire you with positive motivation.
Second, begin to practice the “I want to” approach with anything and everything. “I have to cook” becomes “I want to make something delicious for my family.” “I have to visit 3 sets of relatives in one day” becomes “I want to spend a fun couple of hours with each set of my relatives.”
The more you practice the “I want to” technique, the easier it becomes. All of a sudden, lo and behold, the holidays become the magic they were always meant to be.
Noelle C. Nelson, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, consultant, popular speaker and author of over a dozen best-selling books. Dr. Nelson focuses on how we can all enjoy happy, fulfilling lives while accomplishing great things in love, at home and at work, as we appreciate ourselves, our world and all others. She is the author of “Happy Healthy… Dead: Why What You Think You Know About Aging Is Wrong and How To Get It Right” (MindLab Publishing). You Matter. You Count. You Are Important. Visit http://www.noellenelson.com.