Christmas or whatever holiday you celebrate, it’s all the same to women.  We work our asses off, spread so much friggin’ love that we wonder where it’s all coming from, and in the words of the kid from Christmas Vacation “we still get the shaft”.  What’s with that?

In an effort to be transparent, I loooooove Christmas.  It’s hands-down my favorite holiday.  The best part is that most people (the exception being Scrooge until he was scared out of his begeebees and had a big change of heart) absorb the warm, loving, generous, caring energy that is abundant this time of year.  We don’t worry as much about looking like an ass while wishing a stranger a Happy Holiday, and we are compelled to give more freely to the needy in the community.  And while I could write forever about the necessity of connecting with fellow human beings not just at Christmas but every day of the year, instead of dis’ing what people do, I’ll keep just encouraging them to do it more.

But I remember all too well the pressure of Christmas.  Here we are, women in the midst of what can be described as the most important family holiday going.  There are traditions that we are to follow, expectations that we do things in a certain way, food that we are supposed to serve and eat, drinks that flow too easily, kids that we don’t want to disappoint.  And don’t forget the most important hit on the holidays…our expectations of others on a day that we have worked so bloody hard to make happen.

Your experience may have been different but here is how my Christmas’s felt for many years.  I ran around like a mad idiot getting ready while not wanting to admit to anyone who asked if I was ready, that I wasn’t.  I mean, who doesn’t have all this shit under control?  It was always a relief when I ran out of time and that meant I was automatically ready.

Then I’d be in the thick of it.  Were the gifts ok?  Was everyone happy?  Did I accommodate enough family with my dinner planning?  What if guests didn’t like what I served?  Was it all meaningful enough?  At different points through the holidays I felt like my stomach was flipping, Santa was sitting smack dab on my chest and my throat was starting to close.  I put meaning to everyone’s behaviour and the gifts I received, ate and drank far too much, never felt like I measured up and was way more exhausted after the holiday break then I was before it.  And as much as my poor hubby tried to find out what was going on in my head, it was planted so firmly up my ass that the answers weren’t forthcoming.

But guess what?  I got tired of going in circles with myself.  I got lots of great coaching (yep, it works!) and figured out that this was not about anyone but me.  Just me.  I set myself up every single year to be disappointed.  What was I getting out of doing that, you ask?  As long as I allowed others to define my version of a perfect Christmas, I didn’t have to do the work to define it for myself.  That would mean taking a stand and it was easier to feel like a victim and complain my ass off about how shitty others were, then to take responsibility for my enjoyment of what I still say is the best holiday ever.

So I learned how to manage my shit over the holidays.  If you’re ready to manage yours, try this:

Choose your experience

Ask yourself what you really want your holiday experience to be like.  Get out the pen and paper and go.  Be specific and only include things that are in your control ‘cause this is about your experience.  Plus we all know that your experience will impact others but you’re not responsible for other’s feelings or reactions, right?  How do you want to feel?  Look into your heart, what does Christmas mean to you?  What is the most important thing that you want to remember about this holiday?

Make it happen

Set up your plans, your time and your gifts to reflect what you want.  If receiving isn’t a big deal for you, ask your gift-givers to make a donation to a local charity.  If spending time alone as a family is important to you, don’t take time away from that to visit Aunt Harriet just because she’ll have a shit-fit if you don’t.  However, if visiting Aunt Harriet is also important to you, then include time for her over the holidays that doesn’t bust right into your family time.  What do you have to plan for to enable your experience to happen?  What do you have to say yes to and what do you have to say no to?

Take each moment one at a time

Don’t just try to be in the moment, demand it of yourself.  You are a perfect makeup of magnificence and you have the right to enjoy every single second of this and every other holiday.  When you feel like you are loosing your shit, just stop, close your eyes, breathe tons and think about this particular moment in time.  What are you grateful for?  What is joyful about what is around you?  What is your opportunity to be happy in this moment?  Look for the things that connect you and your heart to people and things around you.  And if you fall into old habits and a screw gets thrown into the works of your new experience, so be it.  Forgive yourself because you know the old saying about the best laid plans, and just start again.  It’s never too late to change things up for yourself and have a new experience.

Be easy on yourself

This is a real bitch of a holiday to practice something new and it’s going to be tough.  Don’t forget to take care of you.  Plan your days carefully.  Include some fresh air, body movement and some bubble-bath down time.  What do you need to do to rejuvenate your spirit and give you the added energy to stick to what you know you want?

And yes, it’s ok to give yourself gifts at this time of year too!

My holiday experiences are still a work in progress, because you never stop planning for the experiences you want in your life, holidays or otherwise.  And you never can guess what Cousin Jenny will bring to the table, but it does get easier.  My clients will recognize when I say that choosing for your happiness for most of us is a new habit, and a muscle that needs work.  I know that my choices make for a more peaceful time with those I love during my favorite holiday of the year and that means it’s worth every bit of effort.

Happiness, peace and love to all of you.